Strange Things may Surprise you about North Korea

Travel & LeisureTravel Tips

  • Author Sarah Donalds
  • Published April 8, 2020
  • Word count 805

North Korea isn’t known for many things that aren’t absolutely horrible, which makes its iconic traffic girls a nice change of pace.

North Korea, as well as many other places, used humans to direct traffic. In the capital of Pyongyang, young, beautiful, single women were selected for the task.

While North Korea can now afford traffic lights on every corner, the women are still everywhere, with about 50 of them working in the capital. "There’s a rumor that Marshall Kim Jong-un handpicks them himself." It’s an extremely coveted job.

The traffic officers are reported to get better pay and more food than the average North Korean, as well as free housing and health care. They wear crisp, military-style uniforms and stay at their posts in all weather.

Kim Jong-il was said to take a "personal interest" in the girls, and he bought them all new equipment, including fancy, umbrella-covered platforms to stand on.

In general, traffic women are supposedly highly desired by single North Korean men, thanks to their good looks and high social status.

When the world discovered that Kim Jong-un and Dennis Rodman were besties, there was a collective shock around the world.

But basketball is an absolute obsession with the current supreme leader and his late father.

Kim Jong-il was said to have installed full-size courts at most of his palaces and supposedly built a library containing videos of almost every game Michael Jordan played with the Chicago Bulls.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright knew about the late Kim’s love and brought him a basketball signed by Jordan as a gift in 2000.

The leader of North Korea

The younger Kim, who would have to eventually settle for a visit from Rodman, went to school in Switzerland, where he was said to be "fiercely competitive" on the court.

And it turns out that North Koreans love basketball so much that they changed it to make it more to their liking.

While they play by the rest of the world’s rules in international tournaments, at home they have their own. Slam dunks are worth three points, and a three-pointer is worth four if the ball doesn’t touch the rim.

Adding some serious excitement, baskets made in the last three seconds of the game score a whopping eight points.

And if a player misses a free throw, they lose a point, a rule that would surely send shivers down Shaquille O’Neal’s spine. "You already know the end of the story. Boing. Miss."

North Korean founder Kim Il-sung has an almost godlike status in his country. Even decades after his death he’s still officially known as the "Eternal President."

North Koreans even have their own calendar, based around his date of birth, April 15, 1912.

The Juche Calendar of North Korea

Known as the Juche calendar, it’s used alongside the Western calendar, so one would say, "We are now in Juche 108, the year 2019." Juche, which means "self-reliance," only came into being in 1997 on the third anniversary of Kim Il-Sung’s death.

Since then, all North Korean publications have included both years, and every citizen is expected to use it. The government makes it easy to remember, though, since so much is based around the birthdays of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.

If a new bridge was being built, the goal would be, for example, to finish it by the 60th birthday of the General.

There’s a serious food shortage in North Korea. Part of this is because the Kims spend money on the military and nuclear bombs rather than agriculture, but the country also lacks chemical fertilizer.

They don’t have the ability to make their own, and sanctions mean they can’t get any from the outside world.

With farmers desperate for help with their crops, there’s a huge market for something called "night soil." In other words, they put human poop in their fields.

Human Manure

Farmers had been using their own families’ waste for a long time, but poop had become such a precious commodity that it made sense to sell it openly. By 2014, Kim Jong-un officially told his people to use human and livestock manure on crops.

Since livestock was scarce, the human version was favored. Perhaps trying to make the best of a bad situation, human excrement became known as the best fertilizer, and vegetables grown in it are considered especially yummy.

If farming families can’t produce enough poop and they can’t afford to buy any, they’ve been known to steal waste from other homes. Alas, using untreated human poop as fertilizer isn’t sanitary.

Many North Korean defectors have been found to have intestinal wormsFeature Articles, including a soldier who had one that was 10.6 inches long. These parasites sap nutrients and lead to an even unhealthier population.

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