10 Tragically Funny Facts About North Korea


Some nations are known for their neutrality, others are known for belligerence, and some even for chocolate. North Korea, on the other hand, is known simply for the madness of its institutions and the laws that govern its land. It has to be said that although the country’s treatment of its population is tragic, some of the nation’s history is simply funny. From the former supreme leader Kim Jong-il’s hair to his glasses, there is plenty to laugh at when it comes to North Korea.

10. North Korean Calendar


The smallest of things can be the most telling examples of a regime that is far removed from simple governance. While most calendars are based on the Gregorian calendar reform, North Korea’s calendar is based on, wait for it, the birth of its leader Kim Il-sung. As a result, the year in North Korea is 104. Its adoption of the Juche era calendar means that years before 1912 (the year of Kim il-Sung’s birth) are used with the Gregorian calendar dates while years past that date have the North Korean Juche Calendar accompaniment.

For example, 2015 would be Juche 104, 2015″ or “Juche 104 (2015).” And because the calendar is based on the birth of Kim Il-sung, the date of his death – July 8 is not allowed to be celebrated as a birthday. The same goes for December 17, the day Kim Jong-il died.

9. Kim Jong-il’s a Film Buff


It’s one thing to love movies, it’s another thing to use your power to further a psychotic film producing agenda. Kim Jong-il was reported to be an obsessive film buff with a collection of 20,000 plus video tapes. He even produced a patriotic 100-part documentary series on the history of the North Korean homeland while somehow writing a book titled: “On the Art of Cinema.” It is unknown what type of qualification he had to author such a book.

What truly makes his film obsession frighteningly funny was his decision to kidnap Shin Sang-ok, the South Korean film director, and his actress wife, Choi Eun-hee (that’s them, pictured above), in 1978 in order to build up North Korea’s film industry. During their time in North Korea, they made seven films before escaping to the West in 1986.

8. The Photoshop


In the international arena, the demonstration of power and strength is shown in many ways. The most obvious is through war or military attack, while other ways include the power of diplomacy to pass international agreements or laws. North Korea had a different idea of demonstrating power. In 2015, Kim Jung-un hailed the recent test of a submarine-launched missile. However, experts have proven that the images are Photoshopped.

This wasn’t the first time North Korea attempted to intimidate the world only to have images proven to be also Photosphopped. In its recent history, North Korean state media released images of hovercrafts coming to the shores. However, the vehicles were shown to be digital mirrors of each other. Other instances of it being used include images where Kim Jong-il stands next to other military generals; he is always made to look at their height despite his obvious smaller stature.

7. Fake City


In Seth Rogen’s film The Interview, they introduce a grocery store that is in the middle of town. It seems to be full of food and attempts to represent a healthy city life, but it turns out to be faux. In reality, a mere grocery store is underselling it. Kim Jong-il sponsored the creation of a whole city at the border of North and South Korea to promote immigration by the South Koreans.

Not only did the supreme leader lead the construction of a fake city, but North Korea was also graced with the world’s largest building/hotel – a 105 story pyramid called the Ryugyong, located in Pyongyang. Unfortunately, the structure remained unused and stands empty.

6. Unicorn Sighting


Probably the most unusual fact on our list is the reported unicorn sighting in North Korea. In 2012, North Korean scientists revealed to the world that unicorns are in fact real. The Korean Central News Agency, the government’s propaganda mouthpiece, said scientists “reconfirmed” the location of the burial site of the unicorn ridden by King Dongmyeong, the founding father of the ancient Korean kingdom of Goguryeo (37 BC-668 AD).

According to the broadcast, the unicorn’s grave was rediscovered near a temple in the capital Pyongyang, with a rectangular rock engraved with the words ‘Unicorn Lair’ at its entrance. Further evidence for the unicorn’s discovery were not revealed. We can’t possibly imagine what the reason for that could be.

5. World Cup


With the country’s great economic difficulties, many North Koreans have fled the country: nearly 23,000 people in the last sixty years. It is illegal to leave the country without the regime’s permission, and yet for the World Cup, a legion of fans from North Korea attended the team’s game. Or did they?

Reports have revealed that the fans cheering for the North Korean soccer team were actually paid Chinese actors. The actors were “handpicked” by the North Korean regime to seemingly best represent the fandom of their country. Sadly, the final of World Cup was not even televised live for the country’s population. They were forced to watch it on a 24 hour delay.

4. Rules and Regulations


While the lack of freedoms and the state of oppression of the North Korean people is by no means humorous, the randomness of the rules and regulations has to be considered at least a little damn funny. One of the most eyebrow raising regulations is the inability for North Koreans to wears jeans. Reports state that denim is a crime as it symbolizes the enemy the United States of America. Another extremely trivial matter that is also law is the type of haircut one can receive in the country.

Men are encouraged to look like their supreme leader and overall only 28 hairstyles are allowed in the country in total. According to a Time magazine report, married women are instructed to keep their tresses short, while the single ladies are allowed let loose with longer, curlier locks. Such control of its citizenry’s daily life shows how systemic the problems are in the country.

3. NADA: The “Space Agency”


Although the United States is considered the mortal enemy of North Korea, the nation’s creation of a space program had a striking resemblance to its American counterpart’s logo. The one problem? Its acronym was a little off, or fitting based on the program’s achievements. Although “nada” is Spanish, specifically, for nothing, it’s almost universally used in the Western world in general to mean nothing. That’s exactly what the North Korean Space agency has accomplished: nada.

According to the North Korean Central News Agency, the establishment of the space program begins the fulfillment of Kim Il-sung’s and Kim Jong-il’s Korea as a space power. With a name like NADA, we’re sure they’ll be able to explore all the nothings of the universe.

2. Threats Sent Using Fax Machine


With a government structure that limits freedom to such degree, it is no surprise that the country is backward economically. The North Korean economy is reeling as a result of UN sanctions and a series of natural disasters, according to data published by South Korea’s central bank. In 2010, Kim Jong-il promised his citizens that the economy would grow but reports showed that the North Korean economy contracted. For the first time in decades, North Korea grew nearly enough to feed itself in 2015.

With its lack of growth and exclusion from world, North Korea appears to be just fine using means of communication that are outdated. While the threatening of another nation is by no means funny, the use of such an archaic medium to threaten war on an advanced nation like South Korea certainly is. The faxes were sent to the South Korean defense ministry after demonstrations in South Korea against three generations of the North Korean dictatorship.

1. Necrocracy


The most fascinating fact on our list is that North Korea is the only country in the world that is a Necrocracy – a government that still operates under the rules of a former, dead ruler. Leave it to North Korea to do what is not done anywhere around the world. All our other facts make reference to this form of government: the calendar revolving around their leader’s birth date, the inability for citizens to celebrate their own birthdays if they happen to land on the day of his death, and the confirmation of a unicorn’s origin in the country.

The cult-like environment is meant to hypnotize the citizenry in a sort of folklore rather than live in the reality of poverty and oppression. Sadly, the current structure is poised to continue on with Kim Jung-un as the country’s supreme leader. Hopefully our list will point out the ridiculousness of the country’s policies and its treatment of its people.

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  1. I’m not sure about #1. Just about every country, including America, still lives under at least some rules of former dead rulers. Our constitution and most of the bill of rights that we still abide by were written by our leaders who died hundreds of years ago.

  2. The unfinished juggernaut of a hotel is actually the “Ryugyong Hotel”. Pyongyang is the capital. 🙂