When you see photos of North Korea, even the ones that got the photographers banned, you might see some pretty strange things. But today we’re going to tell you about some of the things you definitely won’t be seeing if you visit.
South Korea has a number of television networks that produced notoriously entertaining serial dramas that people in North Korea are expressly forbidden to watch. People in North Korea are forced to stick with their very limited propaganda and if they do dare to watch any South Korean television, they’re quite secretive about it. Probably because in just two years, about 130 people in North Korea were executed for this serious crime of tuning into South Korean television.
In South Korea, people are actually free to practice any religion of their choosing and there are many Christian churches available to worship in. On-paper, North Korea boasts that it has freedom of religion. But really that’s only true if your religion is worshiping Kim El Sung. You won’t see anyone walking down the street wearing a cross or even attending a church in North Korea. Just owning a copy of the Bible is enough to earn you a public execution.
There are all sorts of alcohol restrictions in North Korea that of course Kim Jong-un is exempt from. You can’t buy or sell alcohol in marketplaces, you can’t drink in public and until recently you couldn’t buy alcohol in restaurants. Pretty much, you won’t see the average person in North Korea drinking unless it’s a special holiday. South Korea on the other hand, has one of the highest rates of alcohol consumption in the world.
Roads in North Korea are notoriously sparse since you have to be rich to be able to afford one of their horribly manufactured vehicles. There is less than one car per 1000 people so you’re more likely to see tons of hitchhikers than a traffic jam. South Korea meanwhile, has many cars on the road even though they have an awesome public transportation system. They even have the world’s second commercially operating unmanned maglev line which uses electromagnetic suspension.
While you might see people who appear to be voting, but since all North Korean citizens are given only one option to vote for, it’s more of an elaborate show than a legitimate vote. Also voting is mandatory and to not turn out to pretend to vote is a punishable offense. In South Korea, things are different and people vote for elected officials much like we do in the United States. They definitely have more than one option when they show up to the polls.
Much like most parts of North Korea, their zoo is absolutely depressing. Don’t expect to see exotic animals here or even particularly well taken care of ones. Although, they recently got their star primate to stop smoking cigarettes, no really they feature a lot of mundane animals such as dogs in their exhibits. In contrast, South Korea has a variety of zoos featuring an impressive collection of both native and international animals.
One thing you won’t see in North Korea is anybody leaving. While we know that leaving North Korea is forbidden and you can end up paying with your life, you also won’t see people going on vacation within the country unless they’re high-ranking government officials. Traveling to different regions require special permits that are rarely administered. In South Korea, there are no such restrictions and citizens are free to head out for a weekend trip if they choose.
Listening to music that wasn’t created in North Korea is a huge no-no. Western music is considered a crime against the state, so you’d better either listen to North Korea’s only pop and classic North Korean music or some accordion music. Because for some reason that’s huge over there. People in South Korea can freely listen to music and the pop music created by their stars is popular all over the world.
Don’t expect to see people in North Korea making international calls. It’s strictly banned to contact people outside of the country and their coverage is so spotty that even contacting their fellow North Koreans is a challenge. Mostly, people use their cell phones as flashlight instead of communication devices. In South Korea they have lightning-fast Wi-Fi everywhere and no restrictions on making calls.
Government officials in North Korea believe that jeans are a gateway to other sinful Western things. You won’t see any people in North Korea wearing blue jeans and it’s only recently that women were even allowed to wear pants. In South Korea it’s not unusual to see people in jeans and women get away with wearing much less modest miniskirts than would ever be allowed north of the border.