North Korea has been making headlines all over the world recently due to its outrageous laws and inhumane treatment of its people. This is a country that never fails to surprise us with its increasingly petty and controversial behavior. North Korea seems to be going to new levels of insanity every time we switch on the news, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. This is a country that has no issue with throwing its people in labor camps or executing them for senseless reasons that cannot be justified under any circumstances. Although you may have heard of some of the laws on this list, we are sure that others will shock you, as they should.
Some of the laws mentioned below are simply ridiculous but others are nothing to be amused by and some of the most brutal and cruel treatment you can imagine. These laws are ruining and dictating the lives of many innocent North Koreans who are desperate for refuge and escape. This list examines 15 of the worst and most shocking laws currently in place by the North Korean government.
15. Surveillance Laws
Anyone brave or insane enough to visit North Korea will soon become aware of the over-the-top surveillance laws that are in place throughout the country. Any tourist who enters the country will immediately be under the watchful eye of North Korea’s government, and it will remain this way for the entirety of their trip. Every tourist is assigned a tour guide and must remain in their presence and abide by their every instruction. If anyone wanders away from their designated group or tries to strike up a conversation with a local, they will be arrested. Along with this, tourists are assigned to certain areas and routes. Meaning, there are only certain parts of the country they can cover in the first place. If anyone dares enter into a shop or establishment that is not in this designated area, again, they will be arrested.
14. Must Hand Over Human Waste
This is perhaps the most bizarre North Korean law on this list. And although we wish it wasn’t true, unfortunately it is. The origins of this law are caught up in the fact that North Korea’s long winters and mountainous land can make agricultural procedures very difficult. Therefore, for fertilization to occur, human waste has become a crucial resource. This law exists in the sense that local factories must meet certain quotas in the amount of waste they hand over and so, too, must regular civilians. This is one of North Korea’s more recent laws as up until 2008, they were dependent on South Korea to provide them with fertilizer. And prior to this, they depended on The Soviet Union. However, when South Korea refused to keep helping out the North, new laws focused around human waste, and it has remained this way ever since.
13. Rigorous Customs Searches
North Korea is every private person’s nightmare. Anyone entering the country will immediately face the harshest and most invasive customs search you can imagine. Every single item a person has on them will be scrutinized and examined to an insane level. If you are a tourist visiting the country, all electronics, including laptops and phones, will be taken off of you, and (wait, there’s more) all its content will be examined, including any photos and music. If anything on the device is thought to be critical of North Korea’s government, these items will be confiscated and likely never seen again. If you are a budding photographer, make sure your camera lens doesn’t exceed 150 mm, as for some unknown reason, no lens above this is allowed to enter the country. Your luggage will not be the only thing examined to this extent, but body searches are also a necessity. This is not just your average body search, though, and will invade your privacy just as much as the baggage search.
12. Approved Haircuts
This is one of the less severe, but equally as strange as the other laws on this list. When Kim Jong-un came into power in 2013, he dedicated some of his time to drawing up a chart of 28 hairstyles that would be the only ones legal in the country. Believe it or not, these cuts were all handpicked by Kim himself, and the end result was 10 different haircuts men could have and 18 that women could choose from. As you can imagine, these hairstyles are all neatly cut and tidy. No bangs or spiky hair are allowed. And, if you are a man wishing to grow his hair long, well then, think again. Upon marriage, women’s options are minimalized again as they are now expected to cut their hair shorter.
11. No Practicing Religion
It is illegal to praise religion or to show any sign of faith in North Korea. The only person North Koreans are allowed to worship is Kim Jong-un, who is the number one and above everyone, including God himself, apparently. North Koreans are allowed to have no Religion, and anyone who occupies themselves with Western Religions will face severe consequences. Many North Koreans found practicing religion have been executed or sent to serve out their time in labor camps. Some will remember the case of a Christian woman who was publicly executed for handing out copies of the Bible to passersby. Numerous tourists have also faced the backlash of this extreme law by being arrested for having religious items on them. An American tourist spent six months in jail after he left behind a copy of the Bible in a nightclub. North Koreans face a reality where they are not allowed to have a religion, yet are still, in a sense, practicing one with their worship of Kim Jong-un.
10. No Traveling
A lack of mobility around North Korea is not just a reality that tourists face, but it is the way of life for locals too. If you were under the impression that the North Korean government just clamps down on where tourists venture to and that locals can go wherever they please, then you are mistaken. If North Koreans wish to travel somewhere else outside of their hometown, then they must first gain permission from their government. In North Korea, anyone wishing to leave their home must first get government papers granting them permission before they can do so. However, gaining these papers does not mean that locals can then travel freely. Unfortunately, they are still heavily restricted as only the elite have access to railway services and driving privileges. Therefore, many North Koreans wishing to travel will have no choice but to do so ON FOOT. This often leads to death as temperatures often drop as low as -15 C (5 F).
9. Assigned A Social Class
Even before you are born in North Korea, your social class will already have been assigned to you. There exist three separate social classes in North Korea. They are known as the “core,” the “wavering,” and the “hostiles.” There is no room to move about these three levels, and your social class is already determined by your family tree and how loyal they have been to the Kims. The “core” group is the top social class and consists of the elite that make up the government and are closely connected to the Workers’ Party. The “wavering” is the neutral class and falls in the middle. They have shown obedience to the Kims in the past. Finally, the “hostiles” are all at the bottom of the social food chain. They are females who have wronged the Kims in the past. Even new members of these families are left to suffer in poverty, separated from the rest of the population. The 200,000 prisoners North Korea currently has in its labor camps also belong to this class.
8. You CAN Get High
Oddly enough, a country that is extremely conservative and lays down some of the most ridiculous laws has no issue with its citizens getting high. In North Korea, it is not illegal to use, sell, or be in possession of marijuana. The government has no issue with civilians getting stoned or high anytime they feel like it, and it is likely that they don’t even consider marijuana to be a real drug. The same can be said for cannabis which can even be spotted growing along highways and roadsides, making it extremely accessible to North Koreans. We are not sure why Kim Jong-un is so lax about marijuana and cannabis use, but hopefully, it offers a little comfort and relaxation to those stuck in this totalitarian rule.
7. Fake Elections
This North Korean law is about as bizarre as it gets. The law states that North Koreans must run an election to select their leaders despite the fact that there is only one candidate nominated, who will be the only name appearing on the ballot. In the past, the ballot would have read Kim Jung-II and now it reads Kim Jong-un. In the past, if more than one candidate appeared on the vote, this would have been (wait for it) a political actor hired by the Kims to lose. When voting, a person will cross out the name of the candidate they don’t want, instead of ticking the name of the candidate they support. This means that anyone who crosses out Kim Jong-un will be in serious trouble and will be locked up or more likely executed. As you can imagine, none of this is optional and attending elections is mandatory, which means that citizens have no choice but to partake in this political circus.
6. Being An American Is An Offense
As tensions between North Korea and the U.S. continue to grow, it is now almost illegal to be an American in North Korea. Although the political tension between the two countries has a long history, it has reached a new level recently. In fact, many North Koreans have been brainwashed or tricked into believing that it is the U.S. who plan to infiltrate their borders and take over their country. It is believed that because North Korea believed the U.S. to be their biggest enemy, they will find any excuse to arrest American citizens, with the true reason being that they are American. There are theories out there that this is the real reason why American tourist Otto Warmbier was arrested while in North Korea. In the last 10 years, 16 Americans visiting the country were arrested for “undisclosed hostile acts.” Currently, there is a “North Korea travel warning” in place in the U.S., which encourages its citizens not to travel to the country.
5. Their Own Basketball Laws
Believe it or not, North Korea is about to get even stranger as it has gone to new levels of strange by reinventing the game of basketball. Wouldn’t it be great if you had the ability to change certain aspects of a sport to suit you better? Well, this is exactly what the North Koreans have done. The main change that they made to basketball revolve mainly around the scoring system. According to the North Koreans, three-pointers are now worth four points as long as the ball doesn’t touch the rim and slam dunks are worth three points. Along with this, if a player throws three times but fails to score, then a point will be deducted.
4. Love The Kims Or Die
North Korea is no exception to the dictatorships that have existed in history. And just like Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin, all those living under Kim Jong-un’s rule must swear loyalty and obedience to him, his family, and the state. Anything that can be taken as an insult towards the Kim family, North Korea’s government, or the Workers’ Party of Korea is considered blasphemy and will have the harshest of results. This applies to both natives of North Korea and tourists alike. Anything that could be considered a threat or insult to Kim’s rule will lead to the individual in question being thrown in jail or, in some cases, executed. This talk of execution is not just a threat. Kim proved this when he executed his own brother earlier this year and his uncle back in 2014. Many will also be familiar with the case of American citizen Otto Warmbier who was arrested when visiting North Korea after he tried to steal a propaganda poster from his hotel room. Warmbier was locked up in a jail cell, and the torturous treatment he experienced here eventually led to his death.
3. No Capitalist Items
It would take too long to list everything that is banned in North Korea, but anything influenced by the Western World is an absolute no. Western items are labelled as being “corrupted in nature” and will be immediately confiscated. It doesn’t stop here, though, as it is a crime to be found with capitalist items with the punishment being assignment to a labor camp or death. A famous example of this is the time when regular blue jeans were termed as “capitalist propaganda.” It isn’t just clothes though, as no CDs, DVDs, or literature from the outside world is absolutely allowed. It is alleged that entire villages were recently raided after it was claimed that villagers had been watching South Korean DVDs.
2. No Escape
You may wonder why North Koreans, faced with such horrible controlling laws, do not flee, and the answer is that they cannot. It is illegal for any North Korean to leave the country, and any individual who crosses the border without official papers will be gunned down by guards and killed. The harshest punishment exists for those who try to escape or flee Kim’s totalitarian rule, and it is almost certainly always death. Despite this risk, every year, thousands of refugees attempt to escape. Sine 1950, over 24,000 refugees have found solace in South Korea, and it is also believed that more than 200,000 defectors are currently hiding in the mountains and rural areas of China. Not only is escaping North Korea a crime, but so is leaking any type of information about the country to the outside world. This means that much of the information we have about North Korea comes from refugees who have been lucky enough to escape.
1. Three Generations Of Punishment
The Three Generations of Punishment law is definitely the most cruel and unfair law that exists in all of North Korea. The law is exactly what it sounds like. If any person commits a crime, it means that their entire bloodline of three generations will be punished. This law exists mostly for cases where a political offense has been committed. For example, if you were to insult the Supreme Leader, not only you but your grandparents, parents, and children will also face the consequences. North Korean refugees, upon escape, have spoken about the atrocities they witnessed when they saw entire families publicly executed for very small crimes. It is believed that the law is in place as even if someone doesn’t value their own life, they will likely not take the risk of causing other family members’ death. This law also extends to labor camps in the sense that if you were to escape, your family members will take your place.
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