1. Consuming marijuana is accepted and unlike in most of the world, trade and consumption of the drug attract no punishment as per law.
2. Listening to foreign music or watching films in a foreign language are considered criminal activities. In 2015, Kim Jong Un issued a decree to scrap all cassette tapes and CDs that had state-banned songs in order to contain dissent. The sentence depends on the place of origin of the film: someone watching an American movie may be executed, while watching Indian films may lead to imprisonment. Distributing pornography may also lead to the death penalty.
3. Making international calls is a crime. In 2007, a man who made several international calls was killed.
4. Anything that disrespects the family of Kim Jong Un, the North Korean government, or the politicians is considered an act of blasphemy and may be met with severe punishment. In January, it was reported that a mother faced jail for trying to save her children instead of former President Kim Il-sung’s portrait in an inferno. Even failing to wipe off the dust of his portrait is enough to make one guilty; so every family is given a special duster.
5. Only male government officials are allowed to drive. Women are not permitted to drive, even if working as traffic officers. The government restrictions allow only one in a hundred people to have a car.
6. On July 8, when North Korean President Kim Il-sung died in 1994, smiling is strictly prohibited. Talking loudly, dancing, or drinking alcohol on this day is restricted. Disrespecting the rules may have people sent to labor camps or killed. Kim Il-sung’s body is preserved in a glass tomb and tourists are required to bow down at his feet.
7. People are not allowed to wear jeans as it is considered a symbol of capitalism. Women wearing skirts must cover the knees. Wearing bikinis is a strict no-no.
8. All citizens above 17 mandatorily have to vote in the elections. Elections are held to choose the party leaders who will rule the country, except that there’s usually one candidate!
9. North Korea offers only three television channels for people to choose from and all of them are government-controlled.
10. North Koreans are not allowed to travel abroad without permission. People who try to flee are sent to labor camps or simply executed.
11. Internet can only be accessed through their intranet, which is called “Kwangmyong” or Bright, launched in 2000. For professional use, only 28 websites may be accessed under government supervision. The list of people with Internet access includes political leaders and their families, students attending elite schools, and the military’s cyber-warfare department. Only the state-sanctioned operating system Red Star OS, designed in Korean, is allowed to use and not the standard Windows or Mac. Wi-Fi has been banned from use at all North Korean embassies worldwide.
12. Choice of the profession of an individual is decided by the government based on the country’s needs. Those who do not comply are sent to concentration camps for forced labor.
13. In 2013, Kim Jong Un released a list of haircuts that people in the country are allowed. There are 28 state-approved hairstyles that people can keep.
14. Citizens are not allowed to have the same name as the current president. So, everyone named Kim was made to change their names.
15. Freedom of religion is a myth in North Korea. It is officially an atheist state. Western religious practices and literature are forbidden. People who distributed Bibles have been executed in public. In 2014, American Jeffrey Fowle was imprisoned for five months because he forgot the Bible in the bathroom of a restaurant. Churches are controlled by the state.
16. An entire family could be punished if one person commits suicide. If an individual commits a crime, three generations in his family are punished.
17. It spends 20 percent of its GDP on the military when the population is desperate for food.
18. It is believed that film director Shin Sang-ok and his actor wife Choi Eun-hee were abducted in 1978 for inducing creativity in North Korean films. Later in 1986, the couple gradually earned the dictator’s trust and escaped during a trip to Austria for promoting North Korean films.
19. The North Korean calendar Juche is based on Kim II-sung’s date of birth – April 15, 1912.
20. North Korea cuts power every night due to the energy crisis in the country. Using electricity needs permission and owning a microwave is illegal!
21. School-going children are required to get their own desks and chairs, others are forced to do laborious tasks for the government.
22. In 2008, citizens were asked to give their stools to help with agriculture when South Korea suspended fertilizer supplies.
23. Newlyweds are expected to visit Kim II-sung’s statue after the official ceremony. Walking down the aisle is not permitted on any of the birthdays of Kim Jong Un and Kim II-sung.
24. Military service is compulsory for men (10 years) and women (seven years.)
25. Mothers are not allowed to give birth if anyone is around and must go into labor alone. They are not allowed to meet their family or even husband for a week after giving birth. If triplets are born, they are given to the state as there are reportedly concerns over the low birth rate in North Korea. They are returned on reaching four years of age.
26. Sunday is collective labor day – all cleaning is done by hands and tools are not allowed.