The communist state of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is in the news pretty much every other day and it’s not always for good reasons. The autocratic rule of Kim Jong-un has drawn worldwide attention and put the spotlight on North Korea yet again. The region attracts approximately about 100,000 visitors every year but what baffles most people is what do they go to see? Here are a few fascinating things about North Korea most people don’t know, some of which will really surprise you. Might even change your opinion about North Korea.
1.Alcohol is available quite freely
Most people have the misconception that booze isn’t available in North Korea. A bunch of tourists helped clear that misunderstanding by recalling how easily they were able to down Korean vodka shots in one of Pyongyang’s 10 micro breweries on the night they arrived. Feel like booking those cheap last minute flights yet?
2.Marijuana is legal here
This one came as a surprise to many. It is perfectly legal to smoke and buy cannabis in North Korea, whether in public or private, something the nation has in common with the likes of Uruguay, Netherlands, and Colorado. In North Korea, cannabis grows wildly and is even sold abroad by government agencies in order to earn foreign currency.
3.Terrorism threat is quite low in North Korea
When compared to places like France, Germany, and Spain, North Korea ranks surprisingly low on the terror threat radar. While there are chances of tourists being caught by state authorities and imprisoned with a sentence of up to 15 years for propaganda (most people know of which kind), chances of being in a terror attack here are quite low.
4.It is home to the world’s biggest stadium
Pyongyang is home to the Rungrado 1st of May Stadium which is reportedly the largest one in the world. It has the capacity to hold about 114,000 spectators at a time and is home to the DPRK’s national football team. The Arirang Mass Games (a choreographed festival of incredible music and dance are also held here and were last conducted in 2015. Book cheap business class tickets and save huge.
5.Tourist visas are actually quite easy to get
With the level of democracy in a place like North Korea going lower than rock bottom, it is but natural to presume that getting in must be a difficult task. Surprisingly, as long as you’re not part of some or any kind of media, getting into North Korea is actually quite easy. Although you must be prepared to follow certain strict rules and don’t expect to travel independently.
6.It isn’t 2017 in North Korea
The official North Korean or Juche Calendar was adopted in the year 1997. It begins with the birth year of Kim Il-sung, i.e. 1912 or Juche 1 onwards to North Koreans. Which means that in Pyongyang, 2017 is actually Juche 106. Do the math, go figure.
7.Be prepared for some strange food on the menu
While you will find a lot of flavor in North Korean food with peppery soups and deep-fried items being scattered over dining tables. However, there are certain odd items on the menu which aren’t meant for all palates. For instance, while you may willingly try the kimchee locals boast of, you may not find the barbecued dog item on the menu as appetizing. Needless to say, dog lovers may have a tough time dining out in North Korea.
8.You MUST bow to the “Supreme Leader”
This one’s not really surprising. A tourist managed to sneak in uncensored pictures of people bowing to statues of Kim Jong-un and tourists are expected to do the same. If you refuse, you will be locked in your hotel room for the remainder of your trip and sent off with the knowledge that you will not be let back in. You may even be asked to write a letter explaining ‘your actions’ and asking for an apology. If you refuse, there are chances you will be arrested.
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