North Korea has some of the most strict rules that every visitor and resident must follow, today we look at the Top 20 North Korea Rules EVERY Visitor Must Follow.
Everyone know’s North Korea is the strictest and most recluse country with the most severe punishments handed down for those who try to escape or hide from the Kim family’s totalitarian rule.
20 – Living In Pyongyang
There are strict rules when living, working or visiting the capital city of North Korea and everyone in Pyongyang must adhere to the strict rules set within the city.
Only the most successful, influential, wealthy and privileged North Korean people can live and work in the city and they must have express permission from the North Korean Government to own a residence here.
Road-block’s exist on the outskirts of the capital and people coming into and leaving the city are checked to make sure they are 100% loyal to the ruling party.
If your a tourist, you too will be checked and you can only film and take pictures of certain areas and those who have a higher position in society.
That being said, it is not impossible for foreigners to live and work in Pyongyang, over 200 American’s live and work in the capital including Travis Jeppesen who became the first American to complete a university program in North Korea.
If you plan to visit, live or work in North Korea, expect to never be alone, the Government assigned guides will be at your side (or in the next room) 24/7.
19 – North Korea Customs Rules
If your planning on visiting North Korea, then you can expect some seriously strict customs rules, and these are about 1 million times more strict that you are used to with your average TSA inspection.
Firstly, North Korean customs officers will go through your entire music library, checking for western style songs and asking you to delete or confiscating any equipment that features these tracks.
Next you can expect them to investigate all your written materials such as books, documents, names on clothing and anything with Korean written on it.
The officers will check your film and television content on devices such as iPads, cell phones, data storage devices, DVD’s and computers.
Travel guides are known to have been confiscated at the airport upon arrival and any literature deemed subversive or pornographic by the DPRK authorities risks being confiscated.
You could be detained indefinitely for having the wrong type of pictures or content on a device even when leaving North Korea.
18 – Respect The Leadership
Many westerners have fallen foul of this rule and it is one of the most important rules to follow when visiting North Korea.
The ruling Kim family are considered gods within the countries cult of personality and after the communist revolution, Kim Il Sung was declared ruler of the country for life.
When we say for life we mean it, and he is still the true ruler of the country to this day, even though he died in 1994.
Anything that could be perceived as an insult to Kim’s family is considered blasphemy within the country and you can expect some of the most severe punishments.
Expect years in a state-run prison camp like this one, and for North Korean residents, occasionally, the death penalty.
17 – No International Phone Calls
If your visiting North Korea or live within its borders, it is very important to remember that international calls are both banned and considered a serious crime within the country.
International calls made from the country could be seen as attempting to overthrow the ruling regime and in 2007 a North Korean factory boss was executed by a firing squad in front of 150,000 people for making calls from 13 phones.
Overseas calls into North Korea are not impossible however, and while most calls have to go through the international operator service, North Korea accepts calls to its landline system from almost anywhere in the world.
If you are a tourist visiting the country, DO NOT call family of friends back home!
16 – Government Approved Haircuts
All men and women living in North Korea, regardless of status, must follow guidelines when styling their hair.
Eighteen government-approved haircuts for women and ten for men were introduced by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2013 with all other hairstyles prohibited.
Kim, however did not include his hairstyle on the list as he said he wanted to keep in unique and copying his hairstyle is absolutely forbidden.
Married women are asked to wear shorter haircuts than un-married women and men are expected to keep their hair short and, yes, foreigners are allowed to get their own Korean style cut.
Avoid having stubble on your face however, as you risk being labeled lazy, or worse, homeless!
15 – North Korea Internet Access
Internet access within North Korea is limited to certain Government officials, some foreigners working in North Korea and was once offered to people travelling within the country.
It can now only be accessed by foreigners if your working in the country and is provided by Korea’s state owned KPTC via a 3G Koryolink service in 2008.
The service provided has been reported to be quite stable and relatively fast with it covering the capital Pyongyang and most of the rural cities.
The 3G sim-card giving access to the internet is locked to the cellphone registered using the IMEI number and swapping the sim to another phone will not work.
Ordinary North Koreans are banned from using the internet, and instead have access to a local Intranet which gives them access to news, weather, games and a local Wikipedia.
14 – North Korea Photographs
Photography is strictly controlled within North Korea both if you are visiting and if you live within the country.
In the early years of tourism, no photographs were allowed to be taken and people faced having their devices confiscated or being arrested.
Today, this rule is more relaxed and photography is actually encouraged by the tour operators and minders, but ONLY of certain places, people and objects.
Photos of military personnel or construction sites are strictly forbidden and this is a blanket rule that runs everywhere within the country, except parts of the DMZ where a photograph with a soldier is allowed in certain circumstances and you MUST ask first.
13 – DMZ Visits
Visiting the Demilitarized Zone can be one of the scariest and most fascinating things one can do when visiting either South or North Korea.
Un-like visiting on the South side of the border, you can point, shout and no dress code is required, something that is required by the South Korean’s.
The North offer a peaceful reunification vibe while you are shown around by a local guide, however do not be fooled, its still considered the world’s most dangerous border and is an active war-zone.
Bill Clinton once visited the area and described it as “the scariest place on Earth“.
12 – The Bible Is Banned
Owning or reading a bible in North Korea is considered an offence punishable by death and it was reported that one christian woman was arrested and executed for reading one.
Jeffrey Fowle, an American citizen on tour of North Korea, was arrested in 2014 after leaving a bible in the bathroom of a restaurant at the Chongjin Sailor’s Club.
Considered a symbol of Western culture, bibles join a long list of things deemed corruptible in the country and the government want nothing to do with Christianity.
When you visit North Korea its best to leave yours at home and its one place where you wont find one in your hotel room.
11 – Leaving The Country
While foreigners can come and go from the country, albeit with some strict supervision, ordinary North Korean people cannot leave the country.
Some are allowed to cross the border for work but they must have the express permission from the government and carry documents at all times.
For those who try to escape or hide from Kim’s totalitarian rule, they risk being shot by border guards.
Some defectors from North Korea have had to leave their family behind in the country, and they all say the same thing “we never hear from them again”
10 – North Korea Electricity Laws
If you thing the energy crisis in the west is a problem, you have no idea how much of a struggle it is for the ordinary North Korean.
Electricity within the hermit kingdom is strictly regulated and power-cuts happen every single night both in the capital Pyongyang and surrounding cities.
Using any electricity first requires permission from the local government, most likely on a monthly basis and owning a microwave is illegal.
Only 26% of North Korea’s population has access to electricity and the country’s primary sources of power are coal and hydro-electric dams.
9 – Compulsory Military Service
If you live within North Korea, no matter your gender, Military Service within the country is Compulsory with women having to spend 7 years in the service and men, 10 years.
Attempting to avoid military service would be a crime and could see the individual charged with desertion or being a traitor to the state.
Article 86 of the North Korean Constitution states: “National defence is the supreme duty and honour of citizens. Citizens shall defend the country and serve in the armed forces as required by law.”
Drafting usually takes place at age 17 after graduating from senior middle school and while health concerns are considered, the only way to postpone military service is by continuing your education.
8 – North Korea Contraband Laws
While Tobacco smoking is culturally acceptable in North Korea, you would probably assume that any type of drugs illegal in the west, would also be heavily controlled in North Korea.
Not so, as while there is a lack of sources available within the country, some observers say that cannabis is effectively legal in North Korea.
That being said, I would certainly not want to be caught puffing away on a joint while visiting the worlds most strict country.
Reports suggest that marijuana openly grows along the roadside completely freely and that currently, although harder substances such as meth and cocaine are banned, North Korea has no drug problems.
7 – Voting In Elections
Despite what you may believe, North Korea does hold public elections and all citizens above the age of 17 hold a mandatory vote in these elections.
Its safe to say however, that these elections are not free and when voting in the election, you will be voting for one person or one party only, the current one.
As a result, 100% of Koreans vote for their dear leader and there is no opposition party with anyone even considered to be a threat either imprisoned or deceased.
Other party’s do exist in the countries Supreme People’s Assembly and these include the Korean Social Democratic Party and the Chondoist Chongu Party, with both supporting the National Government.
Elections have been widely described as show elections or a political census and many countries have even gone as far as calling them a sham.
6 – Unexpected Rules
As crazy as North Korea is when it comes to rules, following the normal rules can sometimes not be enough as within a day, new rules can come into force.
For instance, on the 10th anniversary of former leader Kim Jong-il’s death, The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea banned all laughing, drinking and shopping for 11 days.
All leisure activities were also banned for the same period and anyone breaking the rules would have been arrested and imprisoned.
Rules within the country can literally change overnight and North Korean’s going to sleep one night could wake up with a new set or rules the next morning thanks to the dear leader’s swipe of a pen.
5 – Three Generations Rule
By far one of the worst rules, and punishments in North Korea, the three generations of punishment rule means if you commit a crime in the country, your children and grandchildren will also receive the full brunt of punishment.
Its been well documented that up to three generations of the same family have ben sent to prison camps even though most of them have never committed any crime.
Also known as the “Kin Punishment”, this form of collective punishment has been used by other authoritarian states such as the Soviet Union, as a form of extortion, harassment, or persecution of that countries population.
Camps such as the Kaechon internment camp regularly see children and grandchildren born into them after a member of the family, or extended family committed what was seen as a crime in the country.
4 – Driving
Driving in North Korea has its own special rules and it is one of the reasons why the countries roads, at least until recently, were almost empty.
Drivers must receive a special permit to drive alone and must always carry passengers unless under a military mobilization permit.
Horizontally-mounted traffic lights and cameras have been installed in central Pyongyang and the country has three major multilane highway.
Drivers must hold a certificate of driver training and a fuel validity document and/or a mechanical certificate to prove the vehicle is in working order.
While driving is a rare experience in North Korea it is becoming more popular, with electric bicycles making up a cheap alternative transport for ordinary North Korean’s.
3 – Basketball Laws
If you thought the driving rules were intense then wait until you see what rules the North Korean’s have for their basketball games.
Dunks are three points, three point shots are four points, all field goals made in the final three seconds of the game are 8 points, one point is deducted for every missed free throw and games can end in a tie.
It’s no secret that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un loves basketball and he was pictured with American basketball player Dennis Rodman in 2013 after he accepted an invite form the Supreme Leader.
Its understood the rule changes were initiated by Kim Jong Un’s father, former North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Il.
Even more crazy rules include a team that’s trailing by 20 or more points in the fourth quarter can win without taking a single shot.
2 – Job’s
North Korea’s main Labor Law clearly states that states that workers shall maintain a routine of eight hours of work, eight hours of study and eight hours of rest.
Article 22 of the KIC Labor Law stipulates that employers shall guarantee workers North Korea’s national holidays, off days and rest time.
The country does not have its own minimum wage and currently, there is no mandatory minimum rate of pay for workers in North Korea.
The labour law makes sixteen as the minimum age for employment but does not ban harmful labor for children under 18.
All North Korean’s are expected to work for the good of the nation and workers do not have the right to organize, bargain collectively, or strike.
1 – Lots of Banned Items
Many many MANY items are banned in North Korea and possessing any of these could get you both arrested if you live there or thrown out of the country if your visiting.
Included on the banned items list are Sanitary pads, condoms, designer shoes, Christmas trees, any kind of western magazines, music concert tickets and sports cars.
One thing that is completely banned within the country is Coca Cola, however its been reported that some shops in the capital are selling a Chinese knock-off version.
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