In this post we are presenting you 16 unknown facts about North Korea that you won’t find anywhere else. We spent in North Korea a trilling weekend that we will remember for the rest of our lives. Find out unrevealed information about the most mysterious country in the world that will definitely surprise you!
Formally it’s not North Korea. It’s DPRK – the short form of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. People in this country don’t like the name “North Korea”, because they claim there’s no North or South Korea. They say Korea is only one and includes the whole Korean peninsula. Just like it was in the past before Korean War (1950-1953). They still consider all Koreans as one nation and blame their enemies for dividing Korea. What’s fascinating, they talk about South Koreans without prejudices and believe that one day two Koreas will reunite.
2. Koreans attitude towards tourists
There are many speculations about North Korea and many negative things are said about this country. People are very often afraid of going there and tend to expect only the worst things can happen. But they are wrong – the first positive thing about North Korea is local people. They show truly positive and open attitude to foreigners, despite political tensions and difficult historical background. When we had a train ride to Pyongyang and passed through numerous North Korean towns and villages, we saw many locals who welcomed us in their country. They showed big smiles towards us, waved to us and simply looked friendly and happy that saw us, especially as so few foreigners visit North Korea. Also during our visit in the capital city, people seemed to be friendly and kind.
3. Colorful buildings
Pyongyang is one of the most colourful cities we have ever seen. Many residential blocks of flats are painted in vivid colors. What’s more interesting, the rule of coloring these buildings is special – each building is painted only in one color. The palette is various – green, orange, red, purple, blue or even pink. That’s why when we had an opportunity to see the city from above, Pyongyang looked like a huge, lovely mosaic.
Moreover, we noticed that smaller towns go in this direction as well. They become more colourful and it’s a good piece of news!
4. Women’s haircut
In North Korea almost all school girls have short hair. However, it’s not obligatory and it works more like a common habit. It’s hard to find young girls with long hair, because people follow this tradition. Also, the haircut looks always very similar. When girls graduated from school, they usually start growing their hair.
5. People get married in their late twenties
Young marriages are not popular in North Korea. People tend to finish their education and get financial stability at first. Decision about getting married and having kids are made in late twenties when other goals are achieved.
6. Bride wears colourful traditional dress
Colourful dress called chosŏn-ot or hanbok is an outfit of North Korean women for important events like wedding or mass dance. Every dress looks differently – they have various colors and patterns.
7. During mass dancing pairs are matched by their blood group
Mass dance is the dance performed by thousands of students during important celebrations taking place usually on the Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang. Women wear colourful hanboks and men wear elegant suites. The choreography is very easy and consists of a few simple moves. Tourists may also participate in dancing with North Koreans. But the most fascinating thing about mass dance is the way how the dancing pairs are matched – all of them are matched by their blood group! The reason of using this method is even more surprising and it’s based on the unusual belief: When a pair is chosen to dance together, they will need to spend some time together. As a result, some of them may fall in love with each other and start a family in the future. So, when they have the same blood group, their kids have lower probability to suffer some health complications.
8. North Koreans are very musical
Koreans love music. The most popular is a famous girls band called Moranbong Band. It’s a group of beautiful ladies, who sing cheerful danceable hits as well as calm, patriotic songs. Moving on to international music, Koreans are fond of Russian orchestra. You can hear it everywhere in Pyongyang. Old Soviet music still thrives in DPRK.
When entering the supermarket, women need to put their purses in special plastic bags. It’s controlled by one of the worker, whose job is to make sure your purse is closed inside the plastic bag. This is the way of preventing stealing in supermarkets.
Also, there’s an interesting habit in North Korea that women are responsible for daily shopping. Women are supposed to push a cart too. When Pawel tried to push a cart, our female guide firmly objected and started to push it by herself.
10. Bagdes with Leaders
All Koreans must wear badges on theirs chests with portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-il when they are outside. Badges are small and placed on shirts on the left side. They are not for sale and not to use for foreigners (despite rare exceptions). Tourists may buy a badge with North Korean flag and wear it during the journey or take it home as a souvenir.
Very few tourists have the chance to ride the taxi in North Korea. But we did it. Taxis are extremely cheap in Pyongyang. We don’t remember the exact price, but paid about 18 000 Wons, which is about €2 for up to 10-minutes ride. Also, taxis have meters. The cars are new and well-kept. Many of them are Chinese models, but we also spotted some older vehicles of Malaysian Proton. Lots of private cars are North Korean models and are locally-produced by national manufacturers.
The currency of North Korean is won. What makes it really special is the fact that it’s forbidden to take them out of the country. That’s why wons from DPRK are very precious among currency collectors around the world. Also, tourists visiting North Korea have very limited access to wons. The total price of the tour is paid in advance and for all expenses on the spot you must pay in foreign currencies. The only way to get wons is a visit in local supermarket Kwangbok. You can exchange there euro, US dollars and Japanese yens into wons. They offer about 9000 wons for euro and the exchange rate was fair. For a packet of tea and sweets we paid about 20-something thousand wons, so a bit more than €2.
North Korea is famous for its beer. The culture of drinking beer is long and well-developed. The best and the most popular beer is Taedonggang. You can easily recognise it by a green bottle. Also, there are plenty of microbreweries that produce their own beers. We visited Mansugyo Beer Bar and tried their speciality. Sooo good!
Our North Korean guide took us to the supermarket because we wanted to buy some local food. We’ve drunk tea in the hotel before and it was delicious and we came up with an idea to buy some tea to try it later. As it showed up, the tea from the hotel wasn’t North Korean :) Our guide showed us the best tea in the shop and told that this one is popular for people to drink. It’s so much different from the teas in western shops – it tastes like it was made only from rice and it actually makes sense because it’s the main thing that grows on their fields. The tea wasn’t tasty and it was hard to drink even one full glass of it – and it’s not only our opninion but everyone’s we’ve treated with it :)
15. Train stations
Train stations in North Korea always look very similar. Wherever we saw them, they were grey buildings with red writings and portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il in the middle. Only train station in the capital is significantly bigger and better-maintained than other ones, but still keep the specified coloring.
16. Darkness in the night
North Korea suffer from strong electricity shortage. The problem is seen even more in the night on the streets. Kwanbok Street, which is one of the biggest streets in Pyongyang, is poorly lightened in the night and many residential buildings also seem to struggle with electricity. Even tourist hotel rooms have only one bulb in a corridor, one bulb in a bathroom and a bedside lamp in a bedroom. We didn’t have the opportunity to see the countryside in the night, but what we saw in daylight is that villagers may have significant problems with access to electric power as well.