While every country in the world has a few strange rules or regulations on the books, the recent global attention on North Korea has shed light on some of the region's downright bizarre laws. The weirdest laws in North Korea are all in place for one reason and one reason only: to control the populace. A citizenry whose lives are dictated and regulated down to the tiniest degree ensure the country's "supreme leader," Kim Jong-un, remains in power and retains his tight hold on the hearts and minds of millions of North Koreans.
The rules you must follow in North Korea are focused on elevating Kim Jong-un to a godlike status while keeping citizens as isolated and cut off from the rest of the world as possible. The fact that the country has such crazy laws in place is not particularly shocking in and of itself; what's shocking is the degree to which these laws successfully keep North Koreans in line. Such extreme rules may sound nuts to us, but violating them comes with serious, even lethal ramifications. Ruling by fear has been the modus operandi of Kim Jong-un and his father and grandfather before him.
Read on to learn more about some of the most bizarre North Korean laws.
You Can Only Wear One of the State-Approved Haircuts
North Korea has approved hairstyles for men and women, with only the latest in '50s trends. Beatings for anyone with an unsanctioned haircut pic.twitter.com/T9Xwajluti— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) April 13, 2017
Since 2013, North Korea has taken a keen interest in the hairstyles of its citizens as a way to implement uniformity and maintain a tight hold on even the most personal aspects of people's lives. There are 18 state-approved hairstyles from which women can choose, and 10 options for men. Men must keep their hair less than five centimeters (around two inches) long; older men are given a wider berth at seven centimeters (around three inches).
The government has ordered married women to keep their hair short, but unmarried women are allowed to wear their hair a bit longer. And while Kim Jong-un's hair, of course, is world famous, it is not an allowable hairstyle in North Korea for anyone but him.
No Smiling On The Anniversary of Kim Il-Sung's Death
Kim Jong-un's grandfather, Kim Il-sung, is presented as the benevolent father of the nation. Though he died in 1994, the date of his death, July 8, is a day of nationwide mourning (just as his April birthday is a day of national celebration). And North Koreans are expected to grieve and grieve noticeably. The law forbids smiling or even talking loudly on July 8.
North Korea takes its mourning seriously; when Kim Jong-un's father, Kim Jong-il, died, citizens were sent to labor camps for not grieving hard enough. This law carries over into any reverential activities surrounding both Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. No gum-chewing, loud talking, or boisterous behavior is allowed near their statues or during times of paying respect.
You Must Have Government Permission To Move To The Capital City
Life in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, is considered to be easier and more modern than life in the countryside. But those who long to live in the Big City cannot just pull up stakes and move to the capital should they so desire. The law bars citizens from relocating to Pyongyang without the express permission of the government. The city is populated mainly by ruling party hardliners and those higher in the social caste.
Also, there are roadblocks throughout North Korea designed to prevent North Koreans from moving around freely and without permission.
You Are Legally Required To Vote In All Elections
After major elections, Americans often ponder what it would be like if more people took an active part in our democracy and voted. But in North Korea, a country that rejects democratic ideals, citizens are given no choice in the matter of whether or not they go to the polls. They must. Any citizen over 17 years of age is required by law to vote. It's less an exercise in democracy and more of a way for the government to monitor the populace.
Not only is there no choice as to who you vote for, but, according to one defector,
"the government checks the list of voters and if your name is not on the list, they will investigate it. It is often during [an] election that the government finds out about defectors."