25 Surprising Facts You May Not Know About North Korea

A world with unicorns, no traffic lights, and a happy American veteran.

underworld111 / Thinkstock

Surprisingly, pot is not considered an illegal substance in the otherwise strict country. Travel blogger/reporter Darmon Richter documented his alleged marijuana purchase while in North Korea.

BuzzFeed has reached out to Richter for further confirmation.

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Flickr: yeowatzup / Creative Commons

North Korea bases its calendar on Kim Il-Sung’s date of birth: 15 April 1912.

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Flickr: fljckr / Creative Commons

North Korea hands out ballots with only one option on them, so votes swing, you guessed it, 100% for the leader.

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Feng Li / Getty

Although there may be some stop lights, many of them reportedly do not work and have been replaced by Police controlling the traffic.

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This post originally erroneously stated that there “aren’t any traffic lights” in North Korea.

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Flickr: 46274125@N00 / Creative Commons

The Rungnado May Day stadium has more than 150,000 seats and houses the extravagant Mass Games.

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Keystone / Stringer / Getty

If one person violates a law or is sent to prison camp, it affects their whole family. Grandparents, parents, and children of the violator are sent to work with them.

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In the 1990s all teachers were required to learn how to play accordions. Today, many citizens continue to specialize in the instrument.

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As a way to intimidate South Korea and put on a front, Kijong-dong (Peace Village) was built after the Korean War.

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Flickr: yeowatzup / Creative Commins

Although the document points out freedom of expression, democratic voting, and the freedom of religion, the country is far from it.

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Feng Li / Getty Images

Nabbing him and his wife, Kim Jong-il forced Shin Sang-ok to make films under his reign. Luckily, the director successfully escaped years later.

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After seeing Godzilla, Kim Jong-Il wanted his own propaganda-laden masterpiece using none other than Shin Sang-ok.

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Kim Il-sung will always be considered North Korea’s eternal leader, even though his heirs have taken the reigns.

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Keren Su / Getty Images / Lonely Planet Images

Apparently the leader had a taste for the brandy.

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Feng Li / Getty Images

The country boasts its literacy rate is on par with the U.S.

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Kcna / Reuters

Pyongyang has three fun fairs, some with less than optimal rides and technology.

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Feng Li / Getty

Kim Jong-il’s body is preserved in a glass tomb for anyone, including outside tourists, to see.

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Alexander Hassenstein / Getty Images

Some include four-pointers (if a three-pointer never touches the rim) and points deducted for missed free throws.

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After the Korean War, Joseph Dresnok crossed over the mine-laden border into North Korea. He met three other U.S. soldiers doing the same thing. However, Dresnok was the only one who chose to stay. He admitted, “I feel at home…I wouldn’t trade it for nothing.”

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Central Press / Stringer / Getty Images

Two of which are only available on weekends, while the other is broadcast in the evenings. Because of this, South Korean soap operas are among the most popular items smuggled in.

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Pool / Getty

North Korea claims to operate under the “Juche” ideology, or “rejecting dependence on others, using one’s own brains, and believing in one’s own strength,” according to Kim Il-Sung. Although not technically Communist, many of these ideas stem from ideologies of previous Communist leaders.

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A previous version of this post stated unequivocally that North Korea was “not a communist nation” which was potentially misleading.

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Feng Li / Getty Images

All students are expected to pay for basically everything but the teacher, causing some parents to secretly pull their children from school.

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Feng Li / Getty Images

Pyongyang, one of North Korea’s only cities, is home to three million people, but only the elite. Only trustworthy, healthy, and loyal citizens can live there.

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Handout / Handout / Getty

Because of its lack of resources, North Korea was forced to use human feces as fertilizer, demanding the product from its citizens.

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Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images

A growing number of prisoners continue to fill the estimated 16 work camps.

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Getty Images / Handout

This means half of the 24 million people don’t even have access to basic human needs.

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A previous version of this post contained erroneous claims that have been removed.

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