The laws of North Korea will make you glad you are living in any country but North Korea. The outlandishly unmerciful regulations there exist for one reason and one reason only: to control the populace by keeping them both terrified and isolated from the influences of the rest of the world. To maintain complete control, everything is regulated down to the tiniest detail. Any deflection is severely punished -- even lethal. Ruling by fear and isolation has been the modus operandi of the Kim dynasty for generations, and the scary part is, it works.
There are only 28 government-approved hairstyles allowed in North Korea: 10 for men, and 18 for women, most of which look like they came straight out of the 1950s. The state takes a keen interest in maintaining a tight grip on even the most personal parts of people’s lives, even their hair. Men are required to keep their hair shorter than five centimeters, though older men are rewarded with an extra two centimeters once they pass a certain age. Married women must keep their hair short, but unmarried women are allowed slightly more leeway. And Kim Jong Un’s famous hairstyle? He is the only one in the country allowed to sport it.
The government of North Korea views triplets with extra levels of protection. If you happen to give birth to triplets, the state will take them away from you, and raise them for four years. In return, you’ll be given gifts from the government as compensation, including a silver knife for boys and a ring for girls. It’s unclear why taking triplets away from their parents for the first few years of their lives is the law, but some say it’s because North Korea has such a low birth rate that triplets are treated with extra care.
A select few people are allowed access to the global internet in North Korea. On this list are North Korean political leaders and their families, students attending the most elite schools, and the cyber-warfare department of the military. Every other individual in the country, however, is limited to the domestic-only network called “Kwangmyong”.
In North Korea, the fashion police are out in force. Literally. In Pyongyang, unpaid government workers stroll the streets to make sure that nobody’s wearing anything that looks too foreign. That essentially means no writing on clothing in any other language than Korean -- even Roman letters are verboten, and would be classed as an attempted invasion on “cultural ideology”. Other contraband items of clothing? Blue jeans, trousers that aren’t straight-legged, sun hats, and clothes that are too “skimpy”.
You won’t be doing much channel surfing in North Korea. That’s because there are only four channels available on TV, all of which are strictly controlled by the government. Korean Central Television is the main one, where the announcer literally shouts the state-sanctioned news with unwavering joy and gusto. There are also two educational channels, and one sports station. Every word uttered on these broadcasts are carefully selected by authorities, so the populace is only aware of the government-approved viewpoint.
Though he died in 1994, the date of Kim Jong-un’s grandfather Kim Il-sung’s death is still a day of state-sanctioned nationwide mourning. North Koreans are required by law to grieve openly for their “benevolent father of the nation” every year on the 8th of July. This means absolutely no smiling, or even talking too loudly. People who don’t appear to be grieving hard enough on this day can be sent to labor camps. On the flip side, Kim Il-sung’s birthday in April is a day of state-sanctioned celebration.
Speaking of Kim Il-sung, you can also be sent to a prison camp for leaving so much as a speck of dust on the portrait of him that you are required keep in your house by law. The state issues every home with special dusters to perform this very specific task with.
According to the government’s three-generation rule, if you or your relative commits a crime, your entire family might also face punishment. For the next three generations. This law means that after the state convicts someone to a labor camp for breaking the law, their entire family will be sent to labor camps as well, and the following two generations must also spend their entire lives in labor camps. This state mandate even affects unborn children. Talk about guilt by association. North Koreans live in constant fear of this horrific punishment, so it works to ensure that crime stays at a minimum and everyone is kept in line.
Since North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, is the only city that the rest of the world is allowed to see, anyone who wishes to live there must receive consent from the government. Residents of Pyongyang are therefore a select elite. They are often wealthy and have demonstrated loyalty to the government or have ties to the Kim family. This could be why the capital’s residents seemed so utterly distraught by the death of Kim Jong-il, while the rest of the country seemed relatively unfazed
In Western society, Sunday is traditionally a day of rest. In North Korea? Not so much. On Sunday, North Koreans all over the country must get to work, but without any of the tools that make toil easier. Digging, cleaning, and watering must be done by hand. That means people will scrub the pavement with their hands, and trim bushes with kitchen scissors.
Most newlyweds have their honeymoon on their mind right after they’ve tied the knot. Not North Korean newlyweds. In North Korea, newly married couples are instead expected to make a beeline to the statue of Kim Il-sung to pay their respects immediately after the ceremony ends. And they can’t walk down the aisle on just any date either. Weddings are forbidden on the birthdays of any former leader. Forget planning a honeymoon; the happy couple is forced by law to go back to work the day after the wedding.