50 North Korea Facts You Need to Know Right Now

Slide on through to find out more about North Korea, and learn things like it isn’t actually 2018 in North Korea, or that Kim Jong Un isn’t actually the leader of North Korea. Mind blown? Yeah, ours too. Reuters
The policy of self-reliance, or “juche,” meaning that North Korea will be economically and diplomatically independent regardless of famine or national tragedy, was put in place by North Korea’s founder and first leader, Kim Il Sung. Korea Summit Press Pool/Pool via Reuters

North Korea is one of the most secretive countries in the world—so secretive that it earned the nickname “hermit kingdom.” This narrative, however, is changing as the current leader, Kim Jong Un, becomes more open to the rest of the world, particularly the United States. After the historic meeting between Kim and President Donald Trump, North Korea could potentially become less hermit kingdom, and more open kingdom.

But, as it stands currently, North Korea is still a dictatorship, having been led by one family since September 9, 1948. At the end of the Second World War, Korea—once controlled by Japan—was divided in two, with the north occupied by the Soviet Union and the south occupied by the United States. In 1948, reunification negotiations failed between North Korea and South Korea, and separate governments were formed, with Kim Il Sung being chosen as the first supreme leader of North Korea. In 1950, he initiated in an invasion of South Korea, which led to the Korean War. An armistice was signed on July 27, 1953 between the North and the South, creating a ceasefire but not a peace treaty. The two Koreas have been at “war” since, but that could soon change.

Since the armistice, North Korea has been ruled under a dictatorship using “Juche,” or self-reliant, ideology. This means that North Korea is independent from all other nations, and refuses any international involvement from foreign countries. North Korea, however, has regularly received assistance from other nations, including Russia, Iran, and even South Korea and the United States.

But North Korea wasn’t always a secret, impoverished nation. During the 1960s North Korea saw a relatively high standard of living, even outperforming South Korea. But the 1980s saw economic setbacks, famines, and decisions made by the Kim family that wound up severely impacting the health of the nation. Now, most of North Korea lives in poverty, under the watchful eye of the government, as Kim Jong Un struggles to maintain power.

Could Kim’s recent openness to dialogue between South Korea and the United States be an indicator that the North could rebound to its economic heyday of the 1960s? Will the facts listed in this slideshow change after Trump and Kim Jong Un’s historic meeting? Will the United States do something about the countless human rights violations the United Nations accuses North Korea of? Only time will tell. But before any of that happens, we should look at some important facts about the hermit kingdom. Slide on through to find out more about North Korea, and learn things like it isn’t actually 2018 in North Korea, or that Kim Jong Un isn’t actually the leader of North Korea. Mind blown? Yeah, ours too.

Technically, North Korea is not a communist country, but rather operates under “Juche” ideology, or self-reliance. However, many of the ideas under “Juche” ideology stem from communist beliefs. REUTERS/KCNA
According to Human Rights Watch, between 150,000 and 200,000 North Koreans are imprisoned in camps. There are different levels of camps for different crimes, the worst being for political offenders. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak
North Korea has conducted numerous nuclear tests over the years. The exact extent of its arsenal is unknown. KCNA via REUTERS
State media reporting of Kim Jong Il, the son of Kim Il Sung and the second leader of North Korea, regularly erred on the side of fanciful. Did you know he scored a perfect 300 the first time he went bowling? How about his scoring 11 holes-in-one the first time he played golf? KCNA KCNA
There are virtually no working traffic lights. The ones that do exist often don’t work. State police typically direct traffic. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
According to an Amnesty International report, 40 percent of camp prisoners die of malnutrition. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
The same family has ruled North Korea since 1948: Kim Il Sung starting in 1948 until 1994; then his son, Kim Jong Il from 1994 until 2011; and finally his grandson Kim Jong Un, from 2011 until present day. Kyodo/via REUTERS
When a person is imprisoned in North Korea, three generations of their family are also convicted of the crime and imprisoned. REUTERS/Jacky Chen
North Korea has its own time zone. It’s a half-hour off from any other place in the world. Kyodo/via REUTERS
The China Times reports that North Koreans have an option of 28 approved haircuts. Married women have the most options, while unmarried women must keep their hair short. A man’s hair must be less than two inches long. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
The former Soviet Union assisted North Korea in the early days of their missile program. It’s been reported that Russia, Iran and Syria have all assisted North Korea with their nuclear program. REUTERS/KCNA
When Kim Jong Un took power, he approved of market places, giving North Koreans the option to earn income in alternative ways, something that was strictly prohibited under his father’s rule. REUTERS/KCNA