46 North Korea Facts That Prove The Hermit Kingdom Is Stranger Than You Thought

Published December 3, 2017
Updated November 9, 2023

These interesting North Korea facts couldn't be true of any other country and prove that the Hermit Kingdom is even more unique than you thought.

Mobile Phones In North Korea
Fewer than one in five North Koreans are estimated to have a mobile phone.

Human Fece Fertilizer
Due to international sanctions and resource shortfalls, North Korea sometimes uses human feces for fertilizer.

Height Of North Koreans
Because of generational malnutrition, North Koreans are, on average, between one and four inches shorter than South Koreans.

Heroin And Meth Drug Smuggling
The CIA states that investigations in recent years suggest that the government makes substantial revenue by trafficking heroin and methamphetamine.

For more, read this report.

Political Prisoners In North Korea
There are an estimated 200,000 political prisoners in North Korean work camps that human rights activists have likened to modern-day gulags.

Haircuts Allowed In North Korea
North Koreans must have one of 15 approved haircuts. Unmarried women must have short hair while married women have more options.

Interesting North Korea Facts
North Koreans need permission from the government in order to purchase a computer.

Interesting Facts About North Korea
Bill Gates' net worth is more than three times larger than North Korea's annual GDP, as of 2017.

Punishments In North Korea
Possessing a Bible, watching foreign movies, and distributing pornography can all be punishable by death in North Korea.

North Korea Facts Access To Electricity
Fewer than one in three North Koreans has access to electricity.

For more North Korea facts, view the CIA factbook.

Kidnapping Movie Directors
Kim Jong-il, a huge movie fan, once had a South Korean director and his movie star ex-wife kidnapped and brought to North Korea to make films for him.

North Korean Godzilla Movie
One of those films, an extremely low-rent Godzilla knock-off, grew popular enough to gain distribution in Austria, where the director and star were able to successfully make their escape.

Next, read the full story of Pulgasari, the North Korean Godzilla knock-off.

North Korea Roads
Only 2.8 percent of all of North Korea's roads are paved.

For more North Korea facts, view the CIA factbook.

North Korean Calendar
North Korea bases its calendar on Kim Il-sung's date of birth in April 1912. Thus, 2017 is the year 106.

North Korea Facts
Less than one in 1,000 North Koreans has access to the internet, which only includes a few dozen government-approved, heavily-restricted sites.

Next, see more rare glimpses of North Korea's internet.

Korth Korea Time Zone
The North Korean government created its own time zone, 30 minutes behind that of South Korea and Japan, even though both countries are actually in the same time zone as North Korea.

Assassination Of Kim Jong Un Brother
Kim Jong-un had his half-brother killed by a team of female agents using poison-laced pens in Kuala Lumpur's airport.

For more, read this report on the assassination.

Average Income In North Korea
North Korea has one of the lowest average incomes in the world at as little as $1,000 per year. South Koreans have an average yearly income of about $32,000.

Unemployment In North Korea
About one in fourth North Koreans is unemployed.

For more North Korea facts, view the CIA factbook.

Basketball In North Korea
Basketball is extremely popular in North Korea, but they play with slightly different rules: Slam dunks are worth three points and field goals quadruple in the final three minutes of a game.

North Korean Peace Village
The North Korean government maintains a reportedly uninhabited propaganda city known as "Peace Village" right on the border with South Korea in hopes of presenting a good face to outsiders and encouraging defection from the South.

Kim Jong-il reportedly had a yearly cognac expenditure of $900,000, which is about 900 times greater than the average North Korean's annual income.

Kim Jong Il Body
Kim Jong-il's embalmed body can be visited by North Koreans and tourists in a state mausoleum.

Kim Jong Un Surgery
Kim Jong-un received surgery for fractured ankles in 2014, with reports indicating that it was due to his extreme weight gain and penchant for heeled boots.

Parking Tickets
Since the 1990s, North Korean personnel visiting the United Nations in New York City have amassed more than 1,000 parking tickets totaling $156,000 — and paid none of them.

Next, read more about North Korea's unpaid parking tickets.

How North Korea Was Created
North Korea was created in 1945 when the U.S. Army had two young officers quickly choose a dividing line between North and South. They had no preparation, consulted no experts, and used a National Geographic map to accomplish their task.

Partition Of Korea
When one of the officers was asked about the partition after the fact, he admitted that, had he been better prepared, he almost certainly would have chosen a different dividing line.

North Korea Hermit Kingdom Drug Trafficking
Because of international sanctions and economic isolation, North Korea engages in illicit activities to generate money for the regime, including insurance fraud, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, human trafficking, arms sales, and drug smuggling.

Feats Of Kim Jong Il
Kim Jong-il has many amazing feats attributed to him by North Korean media such as rolling a perfect 300 the first time he bowled and making 11 holes-in-one the first time he golfed.

Next, read more about Kim Jong-il's alleged accomplishments.

North Koreas Browser
North Korea's internet can only be navigated with the country's official browser, Naenara (which literally translates to "my country"), a modified version of Firefox that forces automatic updates (which can be used for government surveillance) upon all users.

North Korea Executions
North Korea has occasionally executed high-ranking officials using large anti-aircraft guns, virtually disintegrating their bodies.

Border Between North And South Korea
The border between North and South Korea is the most militarized in the world. North Korea has 1.2 million active personnel in total while South Korea has 680,000.

Corruption In North Korea Facts
As determined by the Corruption Perceptions Index 2016. North Korea is the third most corrupt nation on Earth.

For more North Korea facts, specifically related to matters of corruption, see the Corruption Perceptions Index.

Eternal President Of North Korea
Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994, is still the president of North Korea with the title of eternal president. His son, Kim Jong-il, who died in 2011, is still the general secretary of the communist party with the title of eternal general secretary.

Kim Jong Il Operas
Kim Jong-il claimed to have composed six operas in a two-year span.

Kim Jung Un Plastic Surgery
According to leaks from Chinese diplomats, Kim Jong-un had plastic surgery to resemble his grandfather, Kim Il-sung.

Military Size
Most estimates claim that North Korea has the fourth-largest active military force on Earth, despite ranking just 52nd in population.

North Korea Nuclear War 1969
Nuclear war was averted in 1969 after Henry Kissinger intervened in Richard Nixon's order to launch a retaliatory nuclear strike on North Korea for shooting down a U.S. spy plane.

North Korea Stadium
North Korea has the world's largest stadium — Rungrado May Day Stadium — which has a capacity of 150,000 people.

North Korean Expenditure On Military
North Korea spends as much as a quarter of its national budget on its military.

North Korean Famine
In the 1990s, the North Korean famine resulted in the deaths of as much as 15 percent of North Korea's population of 22 million.

Sinchon Museum Of American War Atrocities
North Korea's Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities is dedicated to the Sinchon Massacre, an alleged mass murder of North Koreans by South Korean and American troops in the Korean War.

Next, see some of the most haunting Korean War photos ever taken.

Three Generations Of Punishment
The government uses a "three generations of punishment" rule in which the children, parents, and grandparents of a criminal or political offender can be sent to work with them in a labor prison camp.

Weird Interesting Facts About North Korea
Kim Jong-un is a huge basketball fan. He has even brought former NBA star Dennis Rodman to North Korea for visits.

Writing Books
Kim Jong-il claimed that while he was at university, he wrote 1,500 books in three years.

North Korea Facts Nuclear Tests
North Korea is the only country in the world currently carrying out nuclear tests.

From nuclear weapons tests to brutal assassinations and beyond, North Korea is a permanent fixture in international headlines. And after years of such headlines and reports, it would seem as though most of us should know virtually all of the unusual facts there are to know about the "hermit kingdom."

But the truth is that there are more astounding North Korea facts out there than one could ever hope to count. Whether it's human feces being used as fertilizer or the government trafficking meth to make ends meet, the North Korea facts above reveal what life is really like in the most isolated country in the world.

After viewing these interesting facts about North Korea, have a look at some of the most incredible photos of life inside North Korea. Then, see how North Korean propaganda depicts America.

John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
Katie Serena
A former staff writer at All That's Interesting, Katie Serena has also published work in Salon.