12 Things You Might Not Know About North Korea

UPDATE:
North Korea is threatening the United States with a nuclear assault on the island territory of Guam, as it continues to bluster with President Trump and flex its newly developed missile muscles. President Trump has threatened that any military action on any of the U.S. territories or allies will be met with “fire and fury unlike anything has¬†ever been seen before”. Stay tuned.


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ORIGINAL POST: March 4, 2016The BBC reported on March 2, 2016, that the United Nations Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution significantly expanding international sanctions against North Korea. Correspondents say the new measures amount to some of the toughest against North Korea in two decades. The vote is in response to North Korea’s nuclear test last month.

We thought it would be interesting for our readers to learn a few of the more interesting things about North Korea, that we doubt CNN is going to tell you.

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(Credit: Vice)Marijuana is completely legal in North Korea. That actually explains a lot. In fact, it’s not even considered a drug in the secretive dictatorship. The Huffington Post reported that defectors, visitors and experts have all testified that North Korea either has no law against the sale and consumption of weed, or it has a law that is largely unenforced. NK NEWS receives regular reports from visitors returning from North Korea, who tell of marijuana plants growing freely along the roadsides, from the northern port town of Chongjin, right down to the streets of Pyongyang, where it is smoked freely.

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Night Lights of capital city Pyongyang, North Korea. (Credit: Robert Harding World Imagery)Pyongyang, the capital city, has only 100,000 visitors per year, and most of them come from neighbouring China. However, tourism is now sanctioned by leader Kim Jong-un, and they have grand targets to reach out to 1 million people by 2017 and 2 million by 2020. Seems ambitious for a country that treats most travellers like possible terrorists. And the world’s #1 most visited city? Bangkok, Thailand, with 15.98 million visitors, according to the annual listing by Forbes magazine.

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James Dresnok, America’s last defector. (Credit: BBC Four)Six American soldiers defected to North Korea in 1962 and have lived there ever since. “I was fed up with my childhood, my marriage, my military life, everything. I was a goner. There’s only one place to go,” said James Dresnok, the last US defector alive in North Korea, who recently spoke to the Guardian newspaper. In August 1962, he stepped into the minefield and crossed over to North Korea.

Eventually, there were four of them: Abshier, Jerry Parrish, Charles Robert Jenkins, and Dresnok. The men lived together and participated in several propaganda efforts on behalf of the North Korean government. They appeared on magazine covers and used loudspeakers to try to persuade more American soldiers at the border to defect. However, at first, they did not wish to remain in North Korea indefinitely. In 1966, the four men tried to leave North Korea by seeking asylum at the Soviet embassy in Pyongyang but were immediately turned over to North Korean authorities by the embassy. Afterwards, Dresnok decided to settle in North Korea and assimilate. He married a couple of times and is currently in failing health.

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(Credit: Original oil painting by artist Richard DeRosset for USS PUEBLO crew member Tom Massie)North Korea is the world’s only nation to currently have a captured U.S. Navy ship. On January 23, 1968, in international waters more than 15 miles from North Korea, the USS Pueblo, an electronic intelligence ship, was surrounded by sub chasers and torpedo boats, with MiG jets overhead. The sailors on the Pueblo were rounded up and put in prison camps. While the North produced propaganda footage showing fair treatment, the reality was much worse. The crew endured starvation and torture for nearly a year. Eventually, the North Korean government decided to release all crew members. The Pueblo is still held by North Korea and remains the second-oldest commissioned ship in the U.S. Navy.

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(Credit: Official Website of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea)North Korea is officially NOT Communist anymore. In 2009, references to Communism were removed from the country’s constitution, and “Juche” became the official state ideology, replacing Marxism‚ÄďLeninism when the country adopted a new constitution in 1972. Created by Kim Il-sung, it states that the Korean masses are the masters of the country’s development, with an emphasis on political, economic and defensive self-sustainability.

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2016 North Korea Wall Calendar – “Dispatcher readies a Pyongyang train to depart” (Credit: NK News)It’s not 2016 in North Korea. The year is 105! The Juche Calendar was introduced in 1997 and is based on Kim Il Sung’s date of birth: April 15, 1912. That year was referred as Juche 1 and the system works forward from there, while it maintains the Gregorian Calendar’s traditional months and the number of days in a month.

In many instances of non-Korean usage, the Juche year is given after the corresponding Gregorian year, i.e. 12 June 2007 (Juche 96). However, most official DPR-Korean sources list the Gregorian year second, as in 12 June Juche 96 (2007).

7

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(Credit: BusinessInsider.com)North Korea has the World’s Largest Stadium, seating 150,000 people. The leaders of the country aim to prove North Korea’s might through its architecture, most of which is made of bulky concrete. That includes the May Day Stadium, a colossal structure built in 1989 and remodelled in 2014 that seats 150,000 people. It is the largest stadium by capacity in the world. While it hosts some soccer matches and general athletic competitions, May Day’s grandest and most elaborate events are the annual Mass Games (known in Korean as Arirang). They pay tribute to the country’s history, founders, and current leaders through gymnastics and dance performances put on by thousands of participants. On June 13, 2004, the Telegraph reported that, at the end of the 1990s, a plan hatched by a number of Korean army generals was uncovered, and the conspirators arrested, to assassinate Kim Il-Sung. After they were interrogated, the generals were executed in the May Day Stadium. Petrol was poured over them and set alight, burning them alive.

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(Credit: IO9.com)In 2012, North Korean archaeologists announced to the world that they “discovered” the resting place of a UNICORN. The Telegraph reported in November 2012, North Korean archaeologists claimed to discover a mythical unicorn lair belonging to King Tongmyong, founder of the ancient Korean kingdom. The announcement was made by the History Institute of the DPRK Academy of Social Sciences, which reported that the lair was found 220 yards from a temple in Pyongyang. “A rectangular rock carved with words ‘Unicorn Lair’ stands in front of the lair. The carved words are believed to date back to the period of Koryo Kingdom (918-1392),” the report said. “The temple served as a relief palace for King Tongmyong, in which there is the lair of his unicorn.”

9

The tallest flagpole in the world in the North Korean town of Kijong-Dong
The tallest flagpole in the world in the North Korean town of Kijong-Dong. (Credit: Korrespondent.net)North Korea built a ghost city on the border with South Korea, to encourage defection. As reported in a 2014 New York Post article, according to the Korean government, the village of Kijongdong, located in the North’s half of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), contains a 200-family collective farm, serviced by a childcare centre, kindergarten, primary and secondary schools, and a hospital. However, observation from the South suggests that it’s actually a ghost town, created to encourage South Korean defection. Until 2004, massive loudspeakers mounted on several of the buildings continuously delivered DPRK propaganda broadcasts relating the North’s virtues in great detail and urging disgruntled soldiers and farmers to simply walk across the border to be received as brothers. Eventually, as its value in inducing defections proved minimal, the content was switched to condemnatory anti-Western speeches, Communist agitprop operas, and patriotic marching music for up to 20 hours a day.

10

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Ryugyong Hotel (Credit: Commons.Wikimedia.org)For 20 years, the world’s tallest hotel was a 105-story empty pyramid in Pyongyang. With 105 floors, the Ryugyong Hotel was designed to be the world’s tallest hotel at the end of the 80s, but the construction was halted in 1992 as the country entered a period of economic crisis after the fall of the Soviet Union. Japanese newspapers estimated the cost of the hotel at $750 million, which is 2% of North Korea’s GDP. For over a decade, the unfinished building sat vacant, and without windows, fixtures, or fittings, appearing as a massive concrete shell. In the late 1990s, the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea inspected the building and concluded that the structure was “irreparable.”

11

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Pyongyang Department Store No. 1 (Credit: Asktran.com The largest department store in all of North Korea, the awkwardly-named Pyongyang Department Store No. 1, offers a wide variety of items including foodstuffs, electronics, clothing, and furniture. As of 2013, approximately 70% of the items in the store were produced domestically. The store is one of several official tourist stops in the city. Just one small problem though – in a documentary which aired on PBS’ Frontline, Secret State of North Korea, it was reported that the film crew had attended the store, and learned very quickly that NOTHING in it was actually for sale. It was an elaborate smokescreen to billboard the country’s economic strength – but it actually has generally done the exact opposite.

12

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The massive escalator taking Moscow residents 100 metres deep into the Metro. (Credit: TotalRehash.com)The Metro is seriously deep. In fact, Pyongyang’s metro network is reportedly the world’s deepest. Started in 1966 as a way to connect top secret military buildings, and built by North Korea concentration camp prisoners, the Pyongyang Metro is 100 meters underground and it takes a couple of minutes to ride the escalator down to the station. The journey is long enough that some commuters sit on the steps — despite the signs asking passengers not to. The underground network has two official lines and 17 stations. However, there are rumours of several other secret stations used by government and military only. Inspired by the grand Moscow Metro, many of the stations have ornate chandeliers and paintings and murals on the walls.

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By Unbreakable China,
Founding Blog Member

Calling Out Community
Posted March 4, 2016.  Updated August 14, 2017

Iran Illegally Test-Fired Missiles (Yawn)

By Calling Out Community, Posted October 12, 2015. Updated January 17, 2016

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Secretary of State John Kerry after a news conference on Iran nuclear talks in Vienna. (Credit: Carlos Barria/Agence France-Presse)

On July 14, 2015, the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), the European Union (EU), and the Islamic Republic of Iran reached a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).  This, incidentally, is likely the most irrelevant, unrelated title for a document in history.

The JCPOA was sold to the general public as a way of ensuring that Iran does not pose a near or even distant danger to the world through its already-existent nuclear program, which it says is solely for energy generation purposes.

imagesHowever, as news reports about the JCPOA came out, and details were more clearly realized, we were shocked to discover just how badly this had been negotiated. The deal left far too many things on the table, and took off safeguards that seemed totally ludicrous.

One of the most notable was the blessing by the International Atomic Energy Agency for Iran to inspect some of its own facilities and report back its findings – though two senior U.S. officials told NBC News that the unusual arrangement between the IAEA and Tehran related only to “past military activity” and that UN inspectors, including IAEA Director Yukiya Amano, would be on site to supervise the Iranians at every step of the way.

Past military activity? That makes no sense – Iran has never yet built or used a nuclear weapon, so the entire program must be under suspicion for military use, or they wouldn’t have pushed to have an agreement to ensure it didn’t get used for evil.

The wolf was allowed to inspect the chicken coop, while the rest of us turkeys shook our heads in amazement.

q_60I and others believed that Iran would eventually show its true colors, however, and expose themselves for the conniving fraudsters that they are.¬† On October 11, 2015, they did just that, with the United States confirming that Iran had just tested a medium-range missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon, in “clear violation” of a United Nations Security Council ban on ballistic missile tests.

The logic of this escapes me, if Iran is to be taken at face value in agreeing to this JCPOA. Why spend any time, energy, money or political capital to sign such an agreement on July 14, and then to test a ballistic missile on October 11 that would clearly rustle feathers?

Unless, of course, they meant to do this as a test of the United States’ will power and resolve.¬† They could have saved the missile fuel – we could have told them that the United States would do diddly squat about this.

Samantha-Power-Meme-10-14-2015The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said in an October 21 statement:

“The United States is deeply concerned about Iran’s recent ballistic missile launch. After reviewing the available information, we can confirm that Iran launched on Oct. 10 a medium-range ballistic missile inherently capable of delivering a nuclear weapon. This was a clear violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929.¬†¬†The United States is preparing a report on the incident for the Security Council’s Iran Sanctions Committee and will raise the matter directly with Security Council members in the coming days,” Power said.

In the coming days?  Well, before the U.S. could act, on December 8, the New York Times reported that Iran had test-fired another ballistic missile in November:

“The Obama administration is facing another difficult choice with Iran: As Tehran takes apart much of its nuclear infrastructure to win sanctions relief, how vocally should the White House condemn Iranian violations of United Nations resolutions on other issues?

Based on the first responses Tuesday to reports that Iran had conducted yet another launch of a medium-range ballistic missile, the answer appears to be not very loudly. (emphasis mine)”

Then, on December 15, despite a new International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report that said Iran failed to fully cooperate with an investigation into its past nuclear weapons related work, the United States and the other members of the IAEA Board of Governors voted to close the book on this matter.  Unbelievable.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano addressing the December meeting of the Board of Governors. (Credit: D. Calma/IAEA)
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano addressing the December meeting of the Board of Governors. (Credit: D. Calma/IAEA)

The above-stated¬†IAEA Director General‚Äôs Final Assessment on Past and Present Outstanding Issues Regarding Iran‚Äôs Nuclear Programme¬†indicated that Iran engaged in ‚Äúcoordinated‚ÄĚ nuclear weapons activities until 2003 and that some nuclear-weapons work continued until 2009 – a bombshell that contradicts a controversial 2007 intelligence estimate that Iran had given up nuclear-weapons work completely in 2003.

Regardless of all these major concerns, the Obama administration did NOTHING.¬† In fact, yesterday (Saturday, July 16) Obama announced it was #ImplementationDay, the day when the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, says that Iran has curbed its nuclear program enough to begin receiving relief on sanctions, the terms of which were laid out in the JCPOA. “Today marks the moment that the Iran nuclear agreement transitions from an ambitious set of promises on paper to measurable action in progress,” U.S Secretary of State John Kerry announced Saturday in Vienna.

And today, January 17, the US announced it was imposing fresh sanctions on Iranian companies and individuals over the recent ballistic missile tests. The new sanctions prevent 11 entities and individuals linked to the missile program from using the US banking system.

untitledI’m sorry – pardon me?¬† Imagine, telling 11 Iranians that they are international¬†bad boys, and are now restricted from¬†using¬†their ATM cards in Chicago.¬†¬† Wow, don’t¬†go crazy and tell them that Burger King in Philadelphia is off limits to them too!

I’m sure they were laughing…all the way to the bank somewhere else.¬† What a joke. Iran test-fired, then tested the resolve of the United States and its allies related to this JCPOA – and won the day. In fact, President Obama even stated today that the sanctions lifted as part of the JCPOA deal were “smart”.

Oh, Obama, they were stupid as hell – and so are you.¬† And if you have led us to ruin over this deal, as many of your “fellow citizens” as possible will be demanding your arrest, trial for crimes against humanity. and then we’ll happily strap you to the ground at the projected ground zero of the first nuclear missile that Iran launches against the Israel or the West.

Let’s see if THAT finally…blows your mind.

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Is A Second Korean War Imminent?

UPDATE: ¬†August 21, 2017 ¬†The United States and North Korea have been heaving insults and threats at each other at an alarming rate. ¬†Americans are under the impression that a war with North Korea would be a very short-lived event, with North Korea’s military machine being virtually destroyed in days. ¬†They seem to forget that in 1950, we felt the same way – and that war has never ended to this day. ¬†We did not win the war against North Korea – we called it a draw and walked away. ¬†And in 2013, North Korea pulled out of that armistice – leaving the two sides in a virtual state of war already.


The Chicago Tribune quoted an unnamed official from the South Korean Defense Ministry today (Sunday, August 23, 2015), who¬†confirmed that more than 50 of North Korea’s 70 submarines and undersea vehicles have left their bases, and were undetectable by the South Korean military as of yesterday (Saturday, August 22, 2015).¬†¬† In addition, the official stated that the North has also doubled the strength of its frontline artillery forces.

This Northern military ramp-up came as a result of a standoff which began earlier in the week when land mines on the southern side of the demilitarized zone between the Koreas exploded, injuring two South Korean soldiers out on routine patrol. Seoul says they were planted by North Korea.

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Journalists visiting the scene where mines exploded in the Korean Demilitarized Zone on Aug. 4, maiming two South Korean soldiers on border patrol. (Credit: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

In response, the South resumed anti-North propaganda broadcasts using loudspeakers at the border – the first in 11 years, infuriating the North, which is extremely sensitive to any criticism of its dictatorship.

Senior officials from North and South Korea quickly set up a round of  marathon talks, now into their second day today (Sunday, August 23, 2015), in order to pull back from the brink of an all out war, even though Seoul states that the unusual North Korean troop and submarine movement indicated battle preparation.

CNN reported later in the day on Friday, August 21, 2015,¬†North Korea outlined an ultimatum to its southern neighbour, furious with the loudspeaker propaganda: ¬†either stop the “provocations” and “psychological warfare” or pay the price.¬† “If South Korea does not respond to our ultimatum,” North Korean U.N. ambassador An Myong Hun told reporters, “our military counteraction will be inevitable and that counteraction will be very strong.”

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After an exchange of fire with South Korea, North Korea ratcheted up the rhetoric as the latest skirmish between the two nations intensified.¬† North Korean troops along the border completed preparations and “entered into a wartime state,” the official Korean Central News Agency said Friday. On Thursday, Kim gave South Korea 48 hours to stop broadcasting propaganda across the demilitarized zone or face further attacks.

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Why does all this matter?¬† We have heard¬†all three Kim leaders¬†constantly threatening war with the South.¬† Yet, this incident is one of the most serious since Kim Il-Jung¬†became Supreme Leader 3 1/2 years ago and began consolidating power through a series of purges and provocations against the South. The uneasy truce between the two Koreas has been periodically disrupted by exchanges of fire that peter out before they turn into anything more serious. Still, North Korea’s unpredictable nature keeps tensions high.

North Korean soldiers training in an undisclosed location in this picture released by the North's official KCNA news agency in Pyongyang in 2013.
North Korean soldiers training in an undisclosed location in this picture released by the North’s official KCNA news agency in Pyongyang in 2013.

This would be a good place to remind our readers that, unlike the weak-kneed, secretive regime with a nutty dictator that the Western media would like to paint North Korea to be, the reality is far different.  Not only is North Korea rumoured to have tested nuclear weapons, but they also have huge stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.

The Korean People’s Army (KPA) is a threat to the land, sea and air of all¬†its neighbours, consisting of:

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North Korea’s last major lethal weapon, according to Harry J. Kazianis, writing for The National Interest, is its cybermilitary abilities. Little is definitively known about North Korea’s cyber-army and its capabilities. But this army has proved extremely adept.¬† The US has blamed and sanctioned North Korea for the massive hack of Sony in December 2014. Additionally, South Korea blamed Pyongyang for cyber=attacks against a nuclear reactor in the country in December 2014.

Korean War Airborne Ranger painting
Korean War Airborne Ranger painting

The security and safety of the South Korean people have been paramount to North America since the Korean War, and with good reason. First, there’s the unfortunate geography‚ÄĒthe opponents’ capitals are just 120 miles apart, with Seoul within 35 miles of the nations’ shared border. The numbers only get worse, with estimates of as many as 13,000 artillery pieces positioned along that border¬†– making the North Korean artillery arsenal the largest in the world – many of them within range and presumably aimed directly at Seoul, one of the world’s most densely-populated cities. Factor in the rate of fire of all those suspected artillery batteries, and throw in the potential launch of hundreds of missiles, and it’s easy to conclude that if North Korea is pushed hard enough, the result could be “the destruction of Seoul”, as the New York Times put it in an October 2014 article.

The nightmare scenario has been around for awhile. Pyongyang launches a massive artillery barrage on Seoul. The chaos that would result would be massive. Imagine millions of people flooding out of one of Asia’s largest cities. If one wanted to induce sheer panic and hence help your invasion strategy, this would be an effective way to do it.

Chinese tanks roll through the streets of Yanji in Jilin province, toward the nearby China-Korea border on August 22
Chinese tanks roll through the streets of Yanji in Jilin province, toward the nearby China-Korea border on August 22, 2015

But this story doesn’t just end with the news this week that the two sides of stood down and backed away from the threat of war.¬† A virtually unreported portion of the story is shocking enough to warrant mention here:¬† On Saturday, August 22, 2015, Chinese social media users began posting pictures of tanks and other military equipment moving through city streets. The photos were purportedly taken in Yanji, the capital of Yanbian Prefecture in Jilin province, which lies along the China-Korea border.

That’s right folks – the People’s Liberation Army of China was amassing on the borders of North Korea.¬† To send a message?¬† To assist North Korea with a possible military campaign against South Korea?¬† Or to protect their own borders against a potentially unstable North Korea?¬† We’ll never know.¬† The Chinese government made no comment on the military buildup, and social media sites went silent in China on the issue.

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By Shawn J., Founding Editor
Calling Out Community
Posted August 23, 2015.  Updated August 21, 2017
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