North Korea is considered one of the world’s most closed and restrictive countries. North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, is trying diligently to keep outside influences at bay. Following is an overview of 30 things that North Korea prohibits or restricts.
To avoid foreign influences, the government bans the wearing of Western fashion, like blue jeans and designer shoes, in two of North Korea’s provinces bordering China: North Hamgyong and Yanggang, where citizens are more exposed to information from outside the country.
Two countries do not sell Coca-Cola: Cuba and North Korea. That doesn’t mean the Hermit Kingdom doesn’t drink fizzy beverages – it just makes its own, like Ryongjin Cola, its answer to Coke.
State-sanctioned haircuts are rare in North Korea, both for men and women. Single women are allowed to have slightly longer, curlier locks, while married women must keep their hair short. If a man is older, his hair may be up to seven centimetres (three inches), unless it exceeds five centimetres (two inches).
In North Korea, disposable sanitary pads are a rarity due to their high price. Many women make their own pads out of gauze. In general, women use cloth pads unless they are traveling or do not have access to a bathroom.
North Korea forbids birth control, making condoms (considered ‘indecent items’) a hot commodity on the black market. Kim Jong-un wants a higher birth rate so that his country will have ‘more socialist workers’.
North Korea bans abortions in order to boost its declining birth rate. Due to high child-rearing and education costs in the country, most married couples are only having one child.
Tourists could ride between two specific subway stations in Pyongyang only with a guide until recently. The city’s metro system is one of the deepest in the world, and each station doubles as a bomb shelter.
The North Korean government tries to keep its citizens unaware of religious holidays. Christmas celebrates Jesus Christ’s birthday, but many have no idea who he is. Despite this, Christmas trees with baubles and lights are seen year-round in the capital, serving as regular decorations rather than festive ornaments.
Foreign radio and TV
North Koreans are not permitted to listen to or watch foreign radio or television. This is a means of limiting their knowledge of the outside world and Western culture in particular. In fact, ‘it is illegal even to own or possess a radio or television set that is capable of tuning into any station other than the official North Korean media’.
Journals of the West
North Koreans are forbidden from accessing Western magazines. The government controls what gets printed heavily, and lifestyle magazines, popular in the West, are not allowed.
North Korea prohibits access to the internet due to ‘yellow’ content-a North Korean term for inappropriate and subversive content. Instead, citizens have access to the state-controlled intranet.
It is forbidden for North Koreans to make international calls, even to relatives or friends living in South Korea or northeast China. The security services monitor the use of mobile phones.
Although North Korea does not ban cars, private car ownership is severely restricted. Cars must be registered under national organizations. The result is that 300,000 to 700,000 Koreans ride the Pyongyang subway each day. UN sanctions make it nearly impossible to buy luxury goods like sports cars in North Korea. Nevertheless, Kim Jong-un appears to have no trouble finding a Mercedes-Benz to chariot around in.
North Koreans are not permitted to travel outside their country. Instead, they must content themselves with local attractions, like the highly popular Munsu Water Park (pictured) in Pyongyang.
Religion is prohibited under North Korea’s communist regime. Rather than worshipping their leader, Kim Jong-un, citizens are expected to ‘worship’ former leaders.
To crackdown on Western culture, North Korea forbids its citizens from having piercings. The rule applies to the two provinces that border China, as with the ban on Western clothing.
Local currency for tourists
Tourists are not permitted to use the local currency, the North Korean won. As a result, the currency cannot be removed from the country, even as a souvenir. Euros, U.S. dollars, or Chinese RMB are accepted instead.
North Korea does not have public libraries where you can check out old newspapers. The daily papers are on display in subway stations, where they cannot be purchased to take home.
In Pyongyang, hamburgers are a popular fast food, but you won’t find a Big Mac. Although the Hermit Kingdom has made noises about opening its first McDonald’s, there are currently no McDonald’s franchises in North Korea.
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