As the world's attention is increasingly drawn towards Kim Jong-un, his nation, and his people, many are curious about what it's like to live in North Korea. From the sound of it, daily life in North Korea can be monotonous, dreary, and tightly regulated. On the bad days, it's downright dangerous, brutal, and deadly.
Given the tight hold Kim Jong-un has over the country, it can be difficult to verify the rumors about what it's really like in North Korea. We must rely on the accounts of defectors, those brave souls courageous and fortunate enough to have escaped the nation-state. They all tell practically the same account, offering an insider's view of life inside one of the most mysterious and ruthless dictatorships in modern history.
Read on for some stories from North Korean defectors, and a glimpse into the daily lives of the North Korean people.
In a country where practically every aspect of life is regulated and monitored, anyone going against the norm is bound to stand out. Seriously, North Korea does not look kindly on those who stand out; the government views non-conformity as rebellion, which they feel must be quashed quickly, thoroughly, and as early on as possible.
By meticulously enforcing hegemonic thought, the government maintains a tight chokehold on its citizenry. North Koreans are routinely executed in public, often for minor crimes. In one particularly chilling story, a defector told of a group of 11 people who were publicly executed in a packed football stadium as punishment for making a pornographic movie:
"[They] were brought out, tied up, hooded and apparently gagged, so they could not make a noise, not beg for mercy or even scream…They were lashed to the end of anti-aircraft guns… It was so horrible and I could not eat for three days as it made my stomach churn. What I saw that day made me sick in my stomach. Despite [my family's] privilege, I was scared. I saw terrible things in Pyongyang."
When North Korea lost financial support from the Soviet Union in the wake of the USSR's collapse, desperate times called for desperate measures. Widespread poverty and famine caused decades of death and destruction. To make money, the government started manufacturing meth so pure that it has tested as high as 98% on purity scales. Now, many North Koreans are hooked. According to Vice:
"Suited elites in Pyongyang restaurants offer each other a 'nose' after dinner, the middle classes take it as a cold cure or remedy for back pain, and the poor take it to ease the emptiness in their stomachs."
Anti-American sentiment in North Korea is not just reflected in the country's public policy, or used as a way to cultivate frenzied fear at political rallies. It is woven into the very fabric of the nation. As early as elementary school, North Korean students are given lessons that are nothing more than anti-American propaganda.
Since Trump has escalated tensions with North Korea, anti-American propaganda is at an all-time high. There are billboards showing the destruction of the United States, abundant conspiracy theories about America that are promoted by the North Korean government, and anti-American rhetoric casually enmeshed in North Koreans' everyday lives.
Kim Jong-un may have a wife and three children, but he also has an elaborate and disgusting system in place to satisfy his carnal desires. Obviously, the plan is not discussed openly in North Korea, but defectors have shed light on the despicable practice.
The country's leader regularly has teenage girls pulled out of school to become his personal sex slaves. When he's done with them, they're tossed aside, or are given the option of marrying one of his high-ranking officials. One defector said:
"They learn to serve him food like caviar and extremely rare delicacies…They are also taught how to massage him and they became sex slaves…Yes, they have to sleep with him and they cannot make a mistake or object because they could very easily simply disappear."