North Korea formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is commonly referred to as a “hermit kingdom,” quite a lot is known about this reclusive, isolated nation of 25 million people.
Its recent ballistic missile tests made headlines around the globe, as have the tirades of its young leader, Kim Jong-un. Heartrending tales of the North Korean Famine of the 1990s still strike a chord today, while eccentric anecdotes about the three generations of DPRK leaders draw raised eyebrows.
Kim Jong-il, son of founder Kim Il-sung and father to the current head of state, is repoerted to have bowled a perfect 300 during his first game and to scored 38 under par playing golf, according to The Washington Post. He is also said to have written 1,500 books during his college years alone, The Telegraph reports.
While these outrageous stories are likely overblown propaganda, here are seven real facts about North Korea you probably don’t know that may reshape the way you think about this reclusive nation.
1. North Korea ranks 51st in population, but has one of the largest standing militaries
CIA data ranks North Korea’s estimated 25 milion-person population 51st out of the world’s nations. North Korea’s outsized military is among the most powerful in the world,boasting approximately 1,190,000 active-duty troops, according to Newsweek.
China, the world’s leader in both population (over 1.3 billion) and military size ( 2.3 million), has a military that employs about 0.18% of the population.
North Korea’s military, on the other hand, employs about 4.7% of the total population.
2. Rollerblading is hugely popular, especially in Pyongyang
Busnessinsider claims According to National Geographic photographer David Guttenfelder, rollerblading is popular “all over the country.” He reported that he couldn’t “count the number of rollerblading locations there are in the capital city [Pyongyang],” in particular.
3. Drugs are common and largely unregulated
Drug use is largely unregulated and quite common, with an estimated 30% of North Koreans using drugs, UPI reports.Known locally as Yeoksam, marijuana is grown in such quantity that smugglers sneak it across the border into China for foreign sale, according to Radio Free Asia.
4. North Korea is home to the world’s largest stadium
Not only is the DPRK home to the biggest stadium in the world in terms of seating capacity, but it holds that distinction by a massive margin. The Rungrado 1st of May Stadium (also known as May Day Stadium) has a total capacity of 150,000 people.
It dwarfs the next largest stadium, which is Ann Arbor’s Michigan Stadium, which accommodates 1017,600 people. The venue is used for occasional sporting events, but its primary purpose is to host the annual Arirang Festival , a massive affair held each August and September that celebrates North Korean history, culture, and achievements.
5. North Korea holds political elections every five years
Strange as it might seem for a dictatorship to hold elections, North Korean citizens go to the polls every five years. However, the ballots they receive only list one candidate name, for the office of Supreme People’s Assembly deputy in their district, according to The Economist.
The only decision the voters have to make is whether to vote for the sole candidate listed or to vote against them, which involves placing their ballot in a separate box from the positive votes and having their identity noted, which could be considered an act of treason, The Economist reports.
6. North Korea exists in its own time zone
As of August 15th, 2015, North Korea exists in its very own zone , shifted at least a half-hour apart from any other place on earth, CNN reports.
Pyongyang time is GMT+08:30, to be precise, and was adopted in an apparent return to the time the nation used prior to twentieth-century Japanese colonization.
7. For some North Koreans, life is improving
To be clear, for many North Koreans almost every day is a struggle where food shortages, horrid work conditions, and government oppression define life. But for some DPRK citizens,everday life bears some similarities to the rest of the world, NPR reports.
Fred Masengesho Rugira/Bwiza.com