North Korea is, arguably, the most mysterious country on the planet. Given the nation’s isolation from the outside world, there’s still much that we don’t know about it. And the things we do know are, quite simply, utterly bizarre.

Obviously, since it’s ruled by an oppressive regime, its people live under many strict laws. While many of them are downright ridiculous, they do help inform what it’s like to call the east Asian nation home. Just take a look at the weirdest (and most brutal) laws that North Koreans are expected to follow…

1. Only a certain few people are allowed to use the Internet: The list of people with access to Internet includes only North Korean political leaders, their families, students attending elite schools, and the military’s cyber-warfare department.

2. WiFi is banned at North Korean embassies: You’d better bet the laws of the Internet extend beyond North Korea itself. In fact, WiFi is actually banned at all of North Korea’s embassies worldwide.

3. You cannot use other operating systems: And while we’re on the subject of computers, North Koreans aren’t allowed to use standard Windows or Mac operating systems. Instead, they must use Red Star OS, the only state-sanctioned system.

4. Owning a bible is illegal: In North Korea, freedom of religion is non-existent. In fact, anyone caught in the possession of a bible could either be imprisoned or even executed. The only person citizens are allowed to worship is supreme leader Kim Jong-un. Yikes!

5. You can only wear state-approved hairstyles: In total, there are only 28 government-sanctioned hairstyles the people of North Korea are allowed to sport; 18 for women and 10 for men.

6. It’s illegal to not vote: That’s right: the North Korean government mandates that all of its citizens must cast a vote in elections. While that might sound like a positive thing, there is one glaring problem—they all have to vote for the same person. (Guess who?)

7. Government officials watch over tourists: Though they’re not great in number, tourists are among the most closely monitored people in the nation. This extends to the photographs you take, the people you talk with, and the places you visit.

8. There is no smiling on the date of Kim Il-sung’s death: Kim Il-sung is viewed by North Koreans as the compassionate father of their nation, so it’s only natural that the date of his death, July 8 (as well as his birthday, April 15) are national days of mourning…

All North Koreans are expected to openly grieve on those days. The ruling is so strict that law actually forbids people from smiling or talking too loudly. People who fail to comply can be sent to labor camps.

9. There is no chewing gum or speaking loudly near statues of supreme leaders: Much like the rules regarding the anniversary of Kim Il-sung’s death, anyone who is caught chewing gum, being loud, or acting out near statues of supreme leaders can end up in labor camps.

10. Female military members are expected to perform exceptionally well: Besides undergoing intense and rigorous training, female members are held to strict rules. Namely, if they fail to march in unison, they could—you guessed it—be sent to a labor camp.

11. If one person commits a crime, their entire family could be punished: Yes, that’s right. If you or your relative commits a crime, there’s a chance you and the rest of your family will also be punished.

12. You need government permission to live in the capital: Since life in the capital of Pyongyang is rumored to be much easier than it is for those living in the countryside, anyone who desires to do so must first receive government consent.

13. Only male government officials are allowed to own a car and drive: If you’ve ever seen a picture of a North Korean highway, you might have noticed how empty it was. That’s because only approved male government officials are allowed to drive.

14. Programming is controlled by the government: As an authoritarian state, it makes sense that North Korea only offers three government-controlled television channels. So much for catching up on the last season of The Walking Dead.

15. People who attempt to flee are sent to labor camps or executed: If there’s one thing to know about an despotic regime, it’s they don’t want you to be able to leave of your own free will. So in order to deal with that…

The North Korean government has made it incredibly daunting for anyone attempting to escape its grasp. In fact, those caught doing so can either be sentenced to serve time in a labor camp or be executed for their actions.

16. Citizens are organized according to the caste system: Founded in 1957 by former supreme leader Kim Il-sung, modern North Korean society was broken down into three specific categories. They included: core, wavering, and hostiles…

For people who were considered loyal to the government, they would be placed in the “core” group. The people who were the least loyal to their government were placed in the “hostile” category, and people who were, naturally, considered undecided were in the “wavering.”


17. Making international calls is illegal: Anyone who wishes to make a call outside the country must first receive government permission. Unfortunately, a man in 2007 found that out the hard way, when he was shot and killed by the government for not complying with the law.

There really are some absurd laws in effect in North Korea. Hopefully someday, their people will get to experience living outside of an authoritarian zone.

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