January 5, 2015

Facts About North Korea Highlighted by the Sony Controversy.

north korea pyongyang arirang

With the Sony hacking incident and now President Obama ordering sanctions against North Korea, it has put the spotlight back on a country that seems to do everything possible to shy away from it.

This is the first time the United States has issued sanctioning on another country citing cyberattacks as the cause.

North Korea is a country that desperately tries to keep it’s borders high, it’s land not trodden by visitors and it’s people under control.

Here are some of the lesser known facts about the country:

>>> The literacy rate is currently 99 percent (those at the age of 15 years can read and write).

>>> It is the world’s 10th largest producer of fresh fruit and vegetables.

>>> The majority of people who visit the country have to compulsorily stay in one hotel, The Yanggakdo in Pyongyang. Tourists and visitors are filmed and accompanied throughout the duration of their time there.

>>> In North Korea, North Korea is referred to as Korea.

>>> There is no available internet access for the majority of the population. The Internet access that is permitted to the privileged is only available through the North Korean intRAnet—which is only for government approved websites.

>>> Marijuana is legal and is not classified as a drug. It is freely smoked regularly.

>>> The years in North Korea are counted in the years after the birth of Kim Il Sung, so it is not 2015 there.

>>> The president imports approximately $600,000 dollars of brandy each year for his personal consumption.

>>> It hosts the world’s largest stadium, which holds 150,000 people.

>>> There are approximately 200,000 people in prisoner work camps.

>>> Half of the population live in extreme poverty and have no access to basic human needs.

>>> Elections are held every five years however there is only one candidate to choose from.

>>> There are 51 “social categories” which are based on loyalty to the regime.

>>> There are 28 haircuts to choose from, which have been approved for selection by the government.

>>> In 2014, the World Cup was watched on a 24 hour delay.

>>> In 2013, the President had his uncle executed, for betraying him and his administration.

>>> The death penalty is the punishment for watching South Korean movies, possessing a bible or for distributing pornography.

>>> Vehicles are owned only by the military or government officials.

>>> It is against the law to wear jeans.

>>> Their punishment laws affect three generations of the same family, so if one person commits a crime, three of their family members are also sentenced.

>>> There are only three television channels. Two of which are only shown at weekends.

>>> The most popular attraction is to visit Kim Jong Il’s body.

>>> Public executions are carried out regularly to instill fear into the population.

>>> For 20 years they had the world’s tallest hotel—but it was completely empty.

>>> Radios are programmed so that they will only distribute government based propaganda, news and media.

>>> According to the IISS Military Balance, North Korea has the fourth largest army in the world with up to 1.2 million active personnel. It has a reserve of eight million which is the world’s largest.

>>> It is currently the number one worlds most corrupt country according to the Corruptions Perception Index.

Regardless of all of the above, North Korea is no longer classed as a totalitarian state.

A UN report in February 2014 stated that food was being used as a means to control the population, with over half the population in extreme poverty.

The United States have now issued 10 further sanctions against North Korea, which all directly represent the governments financial interests around the world.

For an already isolated country, the sanctions now being put in place by the U.S. will serve to worsen an already struggling nation. The Obama administration has stated that it is not intended to affect the people direct, but to serve as a retaliation for the hacking that took place on Sony ahead of the release of their latest movie The Interview—a fictional comedy about the assassination of Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.

Arms dealers, technology and intelligence organisations are amongst those sanctioned.

“The order is not targeted at the people of North Korea, but rather is aimed at the government of North Korea and its activities that threaten the United States and others,” President Barack Obama wrote in a letter to the House of Representatives and Senate leaders.

The Whitehouse has also advised more individuals will be sanctions in the future as this was just the first part of the U.S. response.


Despite the threats toward Sony and the hacking that took place, Sony still generated $15 million due to download sales on the first day of release.

As yet there are no certified facts proving that North Korea was responsible for the Sony hack.





Webtv.UN.org: Human Rights Council

Whitehouse.gov: Additional Sanctions North Korea

North Korean Calendar

LAtimes.com: North Korea Sanctions


Wsj.com: Faith in Bible led Ohio Man to North Korea Prison

Media of North Korea





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Author: Alexsandra Myles

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: Wikimedia, Stephan/Flickr

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