Ah, Kim Jong Un. Like his dad before him, his name repeatedly crops up in news stories so bizarre that readers find themselves wondering if it’s April 1 already. We’ve covered his bizarre possible execution of The Excellent Horse-like Lady and his dubious claim of a domestically produced smartphone on these pages. Did you also know that he is allegedly terrified of barbers and cuts his own hair? How about that he’s a huge LA Lakers fan? Madness!

But sadly, not everyone in North Korea can be a high-profile despotic ruler. Haven’t you ever wondered what daily life is like for the average folk living under the rule of the “Outstanding Leader”? One researcher combed the Net for clues.

While most news stories about North Korea focus on the military or the country’s leadership, a researcher at Japan’s Naver Matome went looking for photos or quotes about the lives of normal people in North Korea. Based on his research, here are some conclusions he has drawn:

  • Agriculture

It’s not easy being a farmer in this socialist paradise. All of them are required to work six days a week, eight hours a day, in their local agricultural cooperative. That adds up to about 300 work days a year. And although they don’t get maternity leave, women who have just given birth do get a little break: their work day is only six hours.

And it’s not just farmers either. During the rice planting season in May, young adults and elementary school children are mobilized to help with the hard labor of planting. Even children younger that 10 have been required to help by carrying the rice seedlings around.

  • Children of Pyongyang

Life is easier for the children of the favored families living in Pyongyang. They spend their time playing video games and watching DVDs. In fact, video game addiction is becoming an increasing problem in the region.

Children of wealthy or emerging party leaders are well-off enough to have laptops, earning them the envy of other children their age. Sometimes they extort money from people selling noodles or potato cakes in the market in order to buy games or DVDs.

  • Blackouts

They have high-rise apartment exceeding 20 floors in North Korea, but due to the electricity supply, the elevators usually work for only a few hours in the morning and evening. These frequent outages also take their toll on electric appliances, which are hard to obtain to begin with, causing them to break down. Things like televisions and refrigerators are generally out of the reach of normal people and found only in the homes of the Pyongyang elite.

  • Girls and Bicycles

According to a law put into place by Kim Jong Il, women are not allowed to ride bicycles because it violates the aesthetic of socialist femininity to have your skirts flutter in the wind. If you are caught riding a bike, it will be confiscated. Though, apparently, a woman can walk a bike without any problem.

  • The media

It seems that there is a complete distrust of the official media in North Korea. Rather than just believing the official line, more and more North Koreans are turning to radio broadcasts from overseas to get their information, something that is actually illegal. Foreign media coverage, in particular from South Korea, has been seeping into the country, effecting changes at all levels of society.

  • Shopping

Have you ever wondered about shopping in a country where everything belongs to the state? Well, in addition to government-run dispensaries and stores, there are markets called changmadang in North Korea. The state has co-opted these former agricultural black markets, charging a fee to merchants and controlling the goods that can be sold there in an attempt to control any anti-socialist activity. There are still many daily necessities that are only available at the changmadang, so most people have no choice but to shop there.

  • North Korea’s Company Workers

Since transportation systems are unreliable, company workers have to allow a lot of time for their commute. Being late is definitely unacceptable, not because there is so much work to do but because being late “aids the enemy.” The most desired work is at a trading company, as it provides the opportunity to go abroad and get foreign goods and currencies. The lives of the workers in Pyongyang are spent almost entirely at home or at work, which would bore most Westerners to tears, but compared to the harsh lives of those in the provinces, it is a luxurious existence.

  • Cosmetics

Shampoo and conditioner are widely available to the general public. It’s often said that outward appearance will determine how successful you are in sales, and as most salespeople in North Korea are women, they are particularly susceptible to concerns about looks.

South Korean cosmetics, although illegal, are highly popular. Average women like basic cosmetics, face wash and moisturizers, while upper class women like high-end cosmetic brands like SK-II.

Will North Korea forever be a nation of army uniforms, displays of military prowess and dubious tales of technological achievement? Or will this all one day be a thing of the past? For the sake of the country’s people, and its neighbors, we sincerely hope that it’s the latter.

Source: Naver Matome
Images: The Real Sasha, Darmon Richter, Comtourist, Naver Matome