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North Korea: 16 fascinating facts about the hermit kingdom

An insight into the one of the world's most bizarre and corrupt countries

Elena Holodny,Business Insider
Monday 09 November 2015 12:40 GMT
A mural painting outside the People's Palace of Culture in Noth Korean capital Pyongyang
A mural painting outside the People's Palace of Culture in Noth Korean capital Pyongyang

Everyone's heard a thing or two about North Korea, the "hermit kingdom" that sits on the east coast of China.

North Korea frequently makes headlines as its government continues to tout its military hardware and make boisterous, but so far benign, nuclear threats.

The country has also been linked to several cyber-related incidents lately, but it denies involvement.

Still, the one thing that remains a bit of a mystery is what goes on inside the hermit kingdom, as data isn't readily available or reliable. But check out below some of the things we do know about what makes the country tick:

1. North Korea created its own time zone

North Korean soldiers march on Kim Il-Sung square during a military parade marking the 60th anniversary of the Korean war armistice in Pyongyang

Starting August 15, the country now goes by Pyongyang Time, which will bring back the country to the time zone used on the Korean peninsula before Japanese rule.

2. It costs $8,000 to defect from North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un inspecting the a unit of the Korean People's Army

Since Kim Jong Un took power, it has gotten more expensive to defect from the hermit kingdom.

It costs about $8,000 to get to China, which is way more than the average North Korean can afford, considering the GDP per capita is $1,800.

3. The late Kim Jong Il's annual cognac expense was 800 times the average North Korean's annual income

Former leader of North Korea Kim Jong Il

Kim Jong Il, the father of Kim Jong Un, reportedly spent £700,000 on Hennessy each year. That's about $1.2 million.

The average annual income in North Korea is estimated to be between $1,000 and $2,000.

4. North Koreans born after the Korean War are about 2 inches shorter than South Koreans on average

North Koreans wave the national flag

This height difference is attributed to the fact that 6 million North Koreans are in need of food, and one-third of children are chronically malnourished

5. North Korea says it has a 100% literacy rate

North Korean school children stand in front of the portraits of late North Korean leaders Kim Il-Sung (L) and Kim Jong-Il (R) at Kumsusan Palace

The CIA says literate people are those age 15 and over who can read and write.

6.There are 28 state-approved haircuts

Kim Jong Un's distinctive hair cut

According to Time, "Women are allowed to choose one of 14 styles; married women are instructed to keep their tresses short, while the single ladies are allowed let loose with longer, curlier locks."

Men are "prohibited from growing their hair longer than 5 cm — less than 2 inches — while older men can get away with up to 7 cm (3 inches)."

7. Bill Gates' net worth is an estimated five times greater than North Korea's GDP

Missiles are displayed during a military parade in Pyongyang to mark 100 years since the birth of Kim Il-Sung

Bill Gates' estimated net worth is $79.5 billion.

Trading economics estimates North Korea's GDP at $15.45 billion. (There is no official figure listed at the World Bank.)

8. If North Korea's capital were a US city, it would be the fourth-most-populous one

The skyline of Pyongyang

The population of Pyongyang is 2.843 million.

Theoretically, it would bump the actual fourth-most-populous US city, Houston, with a population of 2.23 million, down to fifth place.

9. North Korea scored a goal against Brazil in the 2010 World Cup

South Koreans wave unification flags as they cheer on the North Korean team in a game at the 2010 football world cup

But they lost, 2-1.

10. North Korea is about the size of Pennsylvania

orth Korea's mineral wealth was estimated at $10 trillion (£7.5 trillion) in 2012 by a South Korean research institute

Pennsylvania is 46,055.24 square miles, or 119,283 square kilometers.

North Korea is 120,538 square kilometers.

11. However, less than 20% of its land is arable. That's about the size of New Jersey

Only 19.5% of North Korea's land is arable. That's 8,800 square miles. New Jersey is 8,722.58 square miles.

12. The number of people available for military service in North Korea is 2.5 times the population of Norway

There are 6.515 million males available for military service and 6.418 million females available. Collectively, that's 12.933 million.

The population of Norway is about 5.1 million.

13. Only 2.83% of the roads in North Korea are paved

There are 25,554 kilometers of roads in North Korea, but only 724 kilometers are paved.

14. In fact, while all of North Korea's roads could circle Mercury 1.5 times, the paved roads alone would cover only the distance between New York and Cleveland

North Korea's roads add up to a distance of 25,554 kilometers. The circumference of Mercury is 15,329 kilometers.

The distance between Cleveland and New York is 463 miles. There are about 450 miles of paved roads in North Korea.

15. Qatar's GDP per capita is more than 51 times that of North Korea

Qatar's GDP per capita is more than 51 times that of North Korea.

At $92,400, Qatar's GDP per capita is the highest in the world in 2014.

North Korea's estimated GDP per capita in 2013 was $1,800

16. North Korea was named the most corrupt country in the world — tied with Somalia

The Corruption Perceptions Index is released annually. In 2014, North Korea was named the most corrupt nation, tied with Somalia.

A score between 0 (highly corrupt) and 100 (very clean) was given to 174 countries and territories.

North Korea scored an 8.

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