As one of the world’s most secretive nations, North Korea has taken great efforts to keep much of its government and military operations out of sight. It’s no surprise that much remains unknown about their armed forces, though we do have some fascinating details about how they operate when it comes to technology and training. Here are 16 things you might not know about the North Korean military!
Mandatory military service for all able-bodied men
With nearly 25 million people, the population of North Korea is roughly five times that of South Korea. Military service is mandatory for all able-bodied men, who served ten years in one of two branches: Ground Forces or Air and Anti-Air Force. Women are not conscripted into military service but are sometimes mobilized for non-military purposes.
All soldiers are required to have their haircut in the same style
North Korea’s military is one of the largest in the world and is known for its strict discipline. So much so that all soldiers are required to have their hair cut in a similar style. There are only a handful of hairstyles proposed by the “Great Leader Kim Jong Un”.
If a soldier’s haircut doesn’t meet standards, they may be subject to penalties such as expulsion from service or forced labor in a prison camp. The country’s military also has its own schools, colleges, and universities where this law is strictly enforced.
Interestingly, no soldier or any civilian can get the haircut of the great leader himself. One can only imagine what would happen if someone breaks this law. This bizarre law.
The military diet is based on corn and kimchi
It’s no secret that North Korea is facing some serious food shortages and the military diet has been drastically shortened in order to save on resources. The military diet is based on corn and kimchi, meaning a lot of carbohydrates with little protein.
This creates a lack of energy, which often leads to malnutrition. In fact, soldiers are only given 100-120 grams of food per day, leading them to be malnourished even before they enter military exercises. But despite serious malnutrition, North Korean soldiers are some of the toughest in the world.
Soldiers are not allowed to have any contact with their families
Soldiers are not allowed to have any contact with their families. They are told that their family members will be sent to a labor camp if they do. Soldiers will also never see their children grow up, as women in the military are not allowed to marry or have kids.
There is a saying among soldiers: “We live only for our country and die without regret”.
They have to carry their own coffin with them at all times
As bizarre as it sounds, soldiers in North Korea have to carry their own coffins with them. Because they never know when they’ll die. Soldiers are required to keep a certain rank, and those ranks dictate what kind of coffin they get.
If a soldier is demoted or discharged, they will be given a low-quality coffin made out of cardboard and old clothes. The coffins for higher-ranking soldiers are made out of wood and iron. One wonders what Kim Jong Un’s coffin would look like.
Not allowed to have friends
The military of North Korea is a highly regimented and disciplined organization with an emphasis on order, structure, and discipline. The military law of North Korea maintains that all members of the armed forces must be politically pure.
This means that no one can be part of the armed forces if they have any connections to South Koreans or other foreigners. It also means that no one in the military is allowed to anyone outside of the military without permission from their higher-ranking officer.
They have to shoot at targets of former South Korean presidents
Yes, during training, reports have come out about the types of targets North Korean soldiers shoot at. Reportedly, South Korean presidents. One would not be surprised if they also shoot at the US presidents. Now, of course, they do not shoot directly at the presidents but at their effigies.
Wear Makeup, Look Pretty
North Korean soldiers are required to wear makeup to look healthy and attractive. This is done because of strict laws about not looking shabby. The colors that are used for the makeup can vary from light pink, white, and brown.
They have to march in perfect synchronization
Well, it’s not too bizarre a fact that they have to march in perfect synchronization. But what’s awfully fascinating is that they will be beaten if they fall out of line or do not march enthusiastically. The only way to make it through training camp is by passing a test at various stages on their journey, or as many as four tests before being considered for active duty.
Stand Like a Pole
North Korean military are required to stand at attention, with their fists clenched by their sides and their eyes fixed straight ahead. If they nod off or move in any way, it can be considered a treasonous act.
They have to keep this up for hours without making any noise or movement, and if they fail to do so for more than 30 minutes consecutively, then that is considered a treasonous act as well. The punishment for these crimes is imprisonment or execution by firing squad. Pretty bizarre, eh?
Don’t Cry Like a Baby
In North Korea, you are not allowed to cry in public because it is considered a sign of weakness.
Dress Like North Korean
They are not allowed to wear anything with English or American symbols on them, especially if they are Christian. If they do, it is punishable by death.
North Korean army is not allowed to show any emotions. There are rules set in place on how they should act and what their facial expressions should be like. One of these rules is that there must always be a smile on their faces, even if they have just lost a family member.
This type of behavior is enforced by the government which is trying to keep everyone happy with Kim Jong-un at all times.
Questions NOT Allowed
This is for both the citizens of North Korea and the military. They are not allowed to ask any questions. They are told what to believe and how to act, and there is no room for discussion.
Make a mistake and you are cold meat!
The soldiers of North Korea are not allowed to make any mistakes in their duties. If they do, they are publicly humiliated and usually executed.
In fact, if a soldier is found making a mistake, his entire family will be killed depending on the gravity of the error. These strict rules have caused many experts to believe that all the soldiers in North Korea are brainwashed and cannot disobey orders without fear of death.
Weaklings Daydream! Not N. Koreans
Daydreaming is not allowed in North Korea. It’s seen as a sign of laziness, or worse, disloyalty.
People who daydream (probably of Kim’s death) are sometimes sent to prison camps and forced to work for months on end. One former prisoner said he was almost beaten to death by guards because he had been caught with his eyes closed for five minutes.
Serve Until you Die
North Korea’s military is made up of 1.2 million soldiers, ranking it as one of the largest militaries in the world. However, this number is not just a result of a large population; conscription can last until your 40s, and women are expected to serve as well.
It also has one of the highest percentages of military equipment relative to its population, with most estimates at around 20%. The training for these soldiers begins early in life and often continues until they’re too old to serve.
The country spends about 20% of its GDP on maintaining its military, which is a larger percentage than any other nation. These funds could be used more productively to bolster living standards for an estimated 40% of the population who live in poverty and suffer from chronic food insecurity.