What Would Your Life Be Like If You Were Born In North Korea?

Not great.

Editors' note

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2. What would your life be like if you were born in North Korea?


Much of this information is based on the “Quality of Life of North Korean” report compiled by the Korea Institute for National Unification.

3. There’s a one in three chance you would have been born stunted or with malnutrition defects, according to the World Food Program and as reported by U.S. News & World Reports.

Damir Sagolj / Via wfp.org

4. There’s a 50% chance you would have been born into “extreme poverty,” according to U.S. News & World Reports, and your diet would consist of corn and kimchi as you would have “severely restricted in access to fuel for cooking and heating.”

Damir Sagolj / Via latinospost.com

5. You would have grown up having to depend on a fireplace for warmth as it is unlikely that you would have been born into a family with indoor heating privileges.

Lee Jae-Won / Via kinu.or.kr

6. Electric power would only last a few hours per day, if you received it at all. Flush toilets would be a luxury enjoyed by only half the country, as water is only provided for 2-3 hours a day.

Damir Sagolj / Via kinu.or.kr

7. If your parents decided to send you to a “free” state school, they would be expected to provide “the schools with sand, cement, glass panes and other material goods as well as cash for management.” They would also have to pay for your desk and chair.

Kcna / Via kinu.or.kr

8. Some of your day at school would be devoted to working for the state. You might have to salvage “discarded steel, copper and lead” as well as wastepaper. Your parents could bribe your teachers to exempt you from this forced labor.

Yonhap / Via kinu.or.kr

9. At the age of 7, you would be inducted into the Korean Children’s Union, where you would have had to pledge your lifelong allegiance to Kim Jong Un, according to the Daily Mail.

Kcna / Via dailymail.co.uk

10. From this point on you would refer to Kim Jong Un as “father.”

Kcna / Via dailymail.co.uk

11. This is be one of many political organizations you would be forced to join in your lifetime.

David Guttenfelder / Via dailymail.co.uk

12. After the age of 13 you would be enlisted in the Red Guard Youth and receive about 300 hours of rudimentary military training annually, according to Country Data.

After formal education, you would be required to perform military service. The constitution states: “Defending the fatherland is the supreme duty and honor of citizens. Citizens shall defend the fatherland and serve in the armed forces as prescribed by law.”

13. If you’re male, you would be conscripted into the Korean Peoples Army at the age of 17, according to the CIA Factbook.

Kcna / Via cia.gov

14. Women are conscripted selectively with many pre- and post-service requirements, according to UN data.

Kcna / Via unstats.un.org

15. Conditions are harsh in the military. Your rations would be hardly enough for sustenance and your exhaustive work day would extend from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Kcna / Via princeton.edu

You would have to spend ten years in the military.

16. As an adult, you would be allowed to join one political organization: The Workers’ Party of Korea.

Kcna / Via mapsofworld.com

No other political ideology is allowed. Defection from the party is a high crime and would be treated as treason.

17. After your military service you would be directed to the industry that needed your labor the most. Most workers will make on average of $2 to $3 per month in pay from the government, as reported by U.S. News & World Reports, if they get paid at all.

Lee Jae-Won / Via kinu.or.kr

Unless you are highly skilled or privileged, the only work available would be labor or factory work. There are even reports of having to pay your company to work there.

18. You only would have been allowed a university education if you were very privileged. That would be the only hope of securing a position outside manual labor and ensuring a place in the state sanctioned aristocracy.

David Guttenfelder, File / Via kinu.or.kr

All real power and privilege in society would stem from connection to the tight-knit political and military aristocracy.

19. The life of this aristocracy would be unimaginable to the average North Korean.

David Guttenfelder / Via kinu.or.kr

Cell phones, coffee, meats, new clothing, heating oil, fuel and cosmetics.

20. Your leader, Kim Jong Un would reportedly be worth $5 billion, according to Business Insider.

The Associated Press / Via au.pfinance.yahoo.com

21. But according to government insiders, none of “Dear Leaders” money is invested in North Korea. It is instead spread around the world in elite private accounts.

22. You would have to pay for your prescriptions, heating and food in the hospital.

AP / Via kinu.or.kr

Bribing of doctors for better care is commonplace. The North Korean “free” medical system would be chronically short on staff and supplies.

23. You would receive no realistic news of the outside world.

Petar Kujundzic / Reuters

All of the information you receive as an adult would be filtered through the state.

24. Your travel would have to be state sanctioned within North Korea.

Newsis / Via npr.org

You would need highly specialized credentials to leave the country.

25. The chances of living to old age would be slim.

Alexander F. Yuan / Via guardian.co.uk

Life expectancy in North Korea has decreased by 4 years since the 1980s, with “men living to only 65.6 and women to only 72.7 years on average,” according to the Guardian.

26. Just a glimpse….

Lee Jae Won / Reuters

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