While living in a democratic country, we take a lot of things for granted. We are so much accustomed to our freedom to choose whatever we think is best for us and our families, that we can not even imagine someone taking it away from us. We can get any haircut we want, watch whatever channel we want, no big deal. In fact it doesn’t even make sense why would someone discuss such basic human rights.
It turns out, North Korea, the country which is known for isolating itself from the rest of the world, has some weird restrictions even on the most trivial things, which will make you feel like you live in heaven. The country has never really made sense to the outsiders but today you’ll find out what exactly is wrong with this country.
Normally we are used to going up and down through a long list of television channels, both local and foreign. Sure most of the channels are terrible and we never watch them but it’s good to have the freedom to watch them.
In North Korea there are only four television channels which are usually used as propaganda tools by the government. These channels air state sanctioned news and show the everyday happenings of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un and his relatives, which are also known as educational segments.
If anyone is caught watching South Korean programs or with copies of foreign movies especially Hollywood movies, he will be punished heavily and there is a possibility they get executed as it is strictly illegal.
According to Kim Jong-un, they don’t want North Koreans to watch foreign programs and get any idea of a rebellion which happened in a few cases.
In 2014, 80 people were publicly executed for watching South Korean television shows and authorities forced around 10,000 people, including children, to watch the execution.
Every year thousands of people take a break from their busy lives and go on a vacation to relax. In normal countries we can go anywhere we like whenever we want as long as we can afford it.
Feel a little bored this summer? Go to Maldives or Sri Lanka or Malaysia! Feeling like seeing something lush and green? visit Croatia or Africa. The are many options.
Even a small weekend trip can help us get our stressed out routine out of your mind. Just go have fun and take some pictures. Nothing wrong or illegal with that.
That’s not the case with North Koreans. They are not allowed to walk out of North Korea because then they cannot be tracked or kept from things like television and everything else to keep them on track. Yes, you need a special permission from the government which is usually only given to governmental employees.
Even foreigners who visit North Korea are not allowed to do what they want. In fact, there are specific roads and places that they are allowed to use. A traveler must have a guide by their side at all time no matter what or the traveler can end up in jail. Also the guide can not be just any North Korean; s/he has to be sanctioned by the government.
There are many places in North Korea where you are not allowed to take pictures and risk your camera get confiscated. Even so, chances are that your camera is taken from you before you even leave the hotel. Yes taking pictures of certain places is illegal and you can end up in jail for that too.
Imagine if our governments controlled the style of our haircuts. Wouldn’t it be egregious? In fact, most of us can’t even imagine our government forcing us to have a particular hair style or controlling the length of our hairs. I know it sounds ridiculous. Not in North Korea though. You do not have the liberty to choose just any haircut style there.
There seems to be equality in this department as both men and women have 15 state-approved hairstyles to choose from. Married women are supposed to keep their hair short while young girls can keep shoulder length bob haircuts. Performers however, are allowed to keep their hair longer. Men are supposed to keep the length of their hair under 2 inches while older men they can grow it up to 3 inches.
North Korean authorities strictly warn citizens against imitating capitalist styles. And what happens to those who deviate from this rule? Depends on the mood of Kim Jong-un at a particular moment; however, generally they are given detention and hard labor so that they don’t forget their lessons.
North Koreans can end up in jail if they dared to wear jeans. Yes you heard it correctly, jeans and any western attire for that matter, are strictly banned because they are considered symbols of western society. Kim Jong-un, like his ancestors, has a grudge with United States of America since day one, thus anything that represents American culture is banned in North Korea.
Women usually wear loose trousers or a skirt that looks like they are from the 80’s. The fashion standards are understandably very low in the country as there not much variety to choose from. The only clothes that are worth wearing are from the smuggled stock, which too the government is trying hard to ban.
WOMEN AND THEIR LIVES
We usually argue about how women are treated in the Gulf and Morocco or the gender inequality in the world in general. We hear cases of rape and abuse but in North Korea it’s on a whole other level. Women in this ultra-conservative country are told since childhood that they are sinister creatures and are to pay for their crimes in the shape of their menstrual cycles. Their misery does not end here; pads and tampons have no existence in that weird place and women are supposed to survive with a piece of cloth and discard the clothes after washing them when no one is around.
Every single woman in North Korea is made to join army for at least seven years where they are treated badly, harassed and kept malnourished.
There is no concept of love there so marriages are arranged in order to bring two families to share their privileges. Even so, daughters are usually gifted to soldiers.
The worst part of this whole situation is that these women don’t even know that there is something wrong in all this. According to them this is how women are supposed to be treated. Due to no access to information about the outside world, they think this is how women are treated around the world.
Many women make a failed attempt to run away from this oppressive system. Only few lucky ones make it through the border to South Korea while rest continue to suffer without any hope of salvation in sight.
CONNECTION WITH OUTSIDE WORLD
North Korea is known for isolating itself from the world and has thus been successful in keeping its citizens under control of one regime. In this 21st century, we can google whatever we want; all we need is an internet connection. Any video that anyone else can watch, we can too. In North Korea, the internet is strictly under state control.
Only videos of Kim Jong-un were allowed to be played on YouTube before the website was completely banned in April 2016. Most of the video content in North Korea is usually about Kim Jong-un and the country’s military arsenal, or educational documentaries about his family.
You cannot chat with random people around the world like a normal person in a free world could. Even music is restricted. No Taylor Swift or Eminem is allowed in North Korea. Only North Korean music with patriotic songs about Kim Jong-un, his father and grandfather are allowed.
Pornography or possession of pornographic material is crime punishable by death as well as public humiliation. The internet is always under survey and so are phone calls. A citizen can be gunned down in ten minutes if one attempts to make an international call. It has happened in the past. Nobody is allowed to make international calls to anyone.
North Korea is known as a communist state which is technically not true. The country’s ideology is Juche, or Kimilsungism, which is based on self-reliance. It is like some of us are dying for our religion or killing others in the name of our religion, North Korea again is on another level. It bans anyone and everyone from practicing any kind of religion or believing in any kind of god thus there are no churches, mosques, shrines or temples in North Korea.
DIFFERENCE OF CENTURY
Yes, North Korea even defies the world when it comes to the year they are in. While it is 2017 for the rest of the world, for North Koreans, it’s the year 105. Their calendar year starts from the birth date of their leader, Kim Il-sung, who they call their eternal leader. He was born on 15th April 1912 and thus the time of North Korea begins with its leader’s birth.
There are a lot of other things about North Korea that will blow your mind away; however, this should be enough for today. Nonetheless, no matter what one says, North Korea is way beyond our imagination, and it is this peculiarity that makes one curious to visit this reclusive country.