Photos show what daily life looks like in restrictive North Korea
People living in North Korea, or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, live rigid and controlled lives.
With a lack of connection to the outside world, North Koreans maintain their family ties and traditions.
Photos show what different aspects of daily life look like for people in North Korea.
Family is incredibly important to North Koreans.
The concepts of family and lineage are important to North Koreans, many of whom have family in South Korea that they can only see on limited occasions, according to NPR. There are heavy restrictions on travel (partially due to the pandemic), according to a 2022 Human Rights Watch report.
Family reunions between the north and south have been on hold for years.
According to NPR, South Korea in September proposed resuming the reunification meetings for families separated since the Korean War, but North Korea refused. Exchange programs between the two nations halted in 2019 amid broader nuclear discussions and later the coronavirus pandemic, per NPR.
Still, they enjoy traditions with their neighbors, like making kimchi.
Kimchi, a traditional Korean dish of pickled vegetables, accompanies most meals, according to the Associated Press. Last year, Radio Free Asia reported that poor harvests prevented many families from enjoying kimjang, the process of making kimchi that is celebrated annually.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expanded the education system with a focus on science.
Under Kim, the country expanded its education system to support children for 12 years with a special focus on STEM subjects, according to the Institute for Security and Development Policy, a non-profit policy organization based in Stockholm.
Citizens visit the zoo to see different breeds of animals from other countries.
In the country's capital of Pyongyang, the Central Zoo has drawn spectators for decades, according to the Associated Press. In 2016, the main draw was the "dog pavilion" that showcased dozens of different dog breeds, the outlet reported.
The pandemic led to an increase in demands for divorces, reports said.
There has been an increase in the demand for divorces due to financial pressures amid the coronavirus pandemic, Radio Free Asia and Daily NK reported last year. Divorce is considered "anti-socialist" and an instigator of "social unrest" in North Korea, where people use bribes to get their divorce hearings scheduled, Radio Free Asia reported.
The 'songbun' caste system divides people into social classes.
The country uses a social caste system known as "songbun," which divides people into classes as "loyal," "wavering," or "hostile," according to the 2022 Human Rights Watch report. Women and other marginalized groups are often the subjects of gender, sexual, and human rights abuses, according to the report.
The country encourages nationalism and veneration of state leaders.
The 25 million citizens residing in North Korea are taught from a young age to worship leaders like Kim Jong Un as powerful gods, according to the BBC. Many of them sing his praises publically, but it is difficult to know how deep the sentiment goes when dissidents are threatened with labor camps or death.
There are celebrations of military might.
North Koreans celebrate the founding of the Korean People's Army every year. This year, the national holiday falls on February 8, and there is speculation that Supreme Leader Kim may test a tactical nuclear warhead to celebrate, according to The Daily Beast.
Propaganda is a prominent force in the country.
Propaganda plays a key role in upholding the country's nationalistic ideals. Directly across the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea, an idyllic village sits on the north side in an attempt to persuade South Koreans to defect, according to the Los Angeles Times. North Koreans refer to it as "Peace Village," while South Koreans call it "Propaganda Village."
Leader Kim uses propaganda campaigns to secure support amid struggles.
Leader Kim Jong Un relies on the Workers' Party Congress to help emphasize his independent and militaristic ideals for the country. In March 2022, Kim called for a fresh propaganda campaign to boost national morale amid economic struggles.
Traveling without permission is a capital offense.
It is illegal to travel internationally or within North Korean provinces without expressed approval, according to Human Rights Watch. Some have defected to South Korea at great personal risk as leaving the country without permission is considered a capital offense, according to the HRW report.
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