North Korea: The Dark Side They Don’t Want You to See

“Preparation for War With USA is Complete” North Korea Announces

North Korea is a hermit kingdom laded with mystery and intrigue. The state is shrouded in a range of rumors, primarily because since the Korean War in the 1950s, the country has isolated itself from the rest of the world. The Korean Kingdom is a part of the Korean Peninsula. Historically, it was a subservient state of the Chinese Qing dynasty. For your information, such as state is called a suzerainty. 

The country is wedged between China and Japan. Therefore, it has remained an object of conflict for centuries. Korea officially split into South and North Korea in 1950, mainly due to the never-ending power struggle between the West-US and Sino-Soviet power blocks. Kim II-Sung and his descendants have ruled North Korea for decades as they have the support of the communist east. The family has preferred an isolationist policy, and that’s why a communication gap still prevails between North Korea and the world, and people know very little about this country. Hence, we assembled some photos that might give you a glimpse of the life and people in North Korea.

Pyongyang is A Densely Populated

Pyongyang is the capital of North Korea and home to just over 3 million residents. Given its massive population, Pyongyang is ranked as the world’s fourth most populated city. This city is quite like Texas or Houston in America. Around 59% of the city’s population is employed in the countless high-rise buildings scattered over Pyongyang. 

Living in Pyongyang is not easy because it is a very congested and overcrowded place to be. Moreover, the city regularly faces all those problems that most capital cities generally don’t. Such power outages are a frequent occurrence. Due to this issue, elevators in the city’s many high-rise buildings, which Pyongyang is known for, get stuck. This causes troubles for workers as they have to climb forty or more stories almost on a daily basis. 

“The North Korean capital, Pyongyang, is a city consecrated to the worship of a father-son dynasty. (I came to think of them, with their nuclear-family implications, as ‘Fat Man and Little Boy.’) And a river runs through it. And on this river, the Taedong River, is moored the only American naval vessel in captivity.”

Christopher Hitchens described his impression of Pyongyang in Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays in these words

Beware of Who You Call

Believe it or not, the North Korean government is striving 24/7 to prevent its citizens from being influenced by foreign countries, cultures, and advancements. The authorities in the country have strictly implemented isolationist policies towards North Koreans. Part of their rigid rules is that people in the country aren’t allowed to make international calls. And, you would be surprised to know that if someone is caught making international calls, they will be executed, most of the time, without even going through a trial. That’s not just hearsay, but such executions have occurred in reality. Back in 2003, a North Korean citizen was executed for contacting his friend in South Korea using a phone.

If a call is made to an enemy state, the repercussions could be even more drastic as the entire family of the violator of law could be punished. There’s no doubt that the North Korean government continuously keeps a check on its citizens’ movements and spies on all modes of communication. In The Orphan Master’s Son, Adam Johnson wrote that anything could get people into prison in North Korea, even sharing stories. “Real stories like this, human ones, could get you sent to prison, and it didn’t matter what they were about. It didn’t matter if the story was about an old woman or a squid attack—if it diverted emotion from the Dear Leader, it was dangerous.”

Empty Roads are a Norm

One of the strangest things about life in North Korea is that the country boasts reasonably good infrastructure, particularly when it comes to roads and highways. There is an extensive network of highways that connect the main towns of the counties. But, what’s shocking about these roads is that they are entirely car-free. Yeah, you read it right. But that’s not because there is any restriction on the movements of the citizens. The reason why North Korean roads remain empty is poverty.

A majority of North Koreans are so poor that they cannot afford to buy a car. On the other hand, if someone does have enough resources to own a car, it is necessary to take official permission to drive through different parts of the country. Furthermore, petrol prices are usually too high, making it even more difficult for people to drive cars. So, this is the reason why cycling is everyone’s preferred mode of traveling in North Korea. Nevertheless, empty roads create a strange atmosphere because roads in the country are as wide and large as airstrips, but due to ignorance from the government or lack of funds, the roads’ conditions are debilitating. 

Human Waste Is a Necessity

When South and North Korea were divided, the South canceled trade ties with the North, which caused a shortage of many crucial resources. One such resource was fertilizer. In 2008, South Korea stopped supplying fertilizers to the North, and therefore, it became increasingly difficult for it to harvest crops and grow food to feed such a large population. 

North Korea came up with a unique solution to overcome this issue- the authorities started using human waste as a substitute for fertilizers. The problem is that the citizens are required to produce a minimum of two tons of human waste to fulfill the need. So, there’s immense competition between North Koreans to produce human feces as the government has burdened them with impossible feces collection quotas to prepare fertilizer for the upcoming farming season. According to a 2019 report from RFA, the households were required to produce 100 kilograms or 220 pounds of human feces per able-bodied citizen. 

Executions Are Pretty Common

Capital punishment is commonplace all over North Korea, and executions are deemed ideal for criminals, even in casual offenses. Regarding private and public executions, North Korea ranks first globally, leaving behind China and Iran by a considerable margin. So, why does the government prefer to execute people over petty crimes?

One of the reasons could be to deter North Korean citizens from committing any crime at all. What makes matters worse in the country is that these executions are carried out openly in public spaces with a wailing audience. This scenario is a routine sight for most citizens. The executions are conducted either through the use of gunfire or by hanging the culprit. Sometimes, an anti-aircraft gun could be used, such as when the defense chief of North Korea was executed, mainly to show disrespect. In its 2013 report, Mapping the Fate of the Dead, a South Korean NGO claimed that there were 318 sites in the country that the government used for carrying out public executions. Today, this number would be way higher.