President Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping vowed to “strengthen coordination” to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the White House said in a statement Monday.
Here are 15 fascinating facts about North Korea, one of the most isolated and ruthlessly ruled nations on earth:
1. The founder and first leader of North Korea, Kim Il Sung, created the country’s policy of juche or “self-reliance,” which cut off North Korea economically and diplomatically from the rest of the world, even in times of great need, such as famines.
2. Kim Jong Il, son of the country’s founder, has performed amazing feats, according to state-controlled media: He scored a perfect 300 the first time he went bowling and sank 11 holes-in-one the first time he played golf.
3. During its seven-decade existence, North Korea has been ruled by three generations of the same family, all brutal dictators. Kim Jong Un, 33, grandson of Kim Il Sung, came to power in 2011, following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il.
4. Between 150,000 and 200,000 North Koreans live in prison camps surrounded by electrified fencing, according to South Korean government estimates and Human Rights Watch. The worst camps are for those who commit political crimes, and offenders can have their entire extended family imprisoned with them. As many as 40% of camp prisoners die from malnutrition while doing mining, logging and agricultural work with rudimentary tools in harsh conditions, according to a 2011 Amnesty International report.
5. North Koreans must abide by one of 28 approved haircuts. Unmarried women must have short hair, but married woman have many more options. The hair of young men should be less than 2 inches long, older men can go as long as 2¾ inches, according to a Taiwanese website WantChinaTimes.
6. All legal televisions are tuned to state-controlled domestic programming. The Internet does not exist other than a closed domestic network. Few North Koreans know anything about world events apart from how they are described by North Korean state propaganda.
7. North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests since 2006, in violation of international law. Two were conducted in 2016, including one that North Korea said was a powerful hydrogen bomb. However, the United States doubted that claim. The North is believed to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons but the size is unknown.
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8. North Korea’s missile program was first developed with help from the then-Soviet Union in the 1970s. Its long-range Taepodong-2 missile is being developed to reach U.S. territory. Other medium-range missiles have been fired over Japan.
9. The border between North Korea and South Korea is one of the most militarized in the world, according to the State Department. Pyongyang has about 1.2 million military personnel compared with 680,000 troops in South Korea, where 28,000 U.S. troops are also stationed. Nearly 6 million North Koreans are reservists in the worker/peasant guard, compulsory to the age of 60.
10. In 1978, North Korean agents kidnapped South Korean film director Shin Sang Ok and his wife, actress Choe Eun Hui, to create a film industry in North Korea. The couple escaped to the West eight years later, after having made dozens of films.
11. Kim Jong Un’s older half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, was assassinated at the Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia on Feb. 13 by two women who used a deadly nerve agent, according to Malaysian authorities. The Malaysian government blamed North Korean agents for his murder.
12. As many as 2 million people died as a result of famine in the 1990s caused by erratic government farming policies and flooding, according to the United Nations. Asia Press reported that a recent return of famine in the farming provinces of North and South Hwanghae has forced some to resort to cannibalism.
13. Annual GDP per person was $1,800, in 2014, among the lowest in the world, according to the CIA World Factbook. The GDP per person in South Korea in 2016 was $37,900, according to the Factbook.
14. North Korea’s regime gets much of its income by exporting to Japan and elsewhere counterfeit pharmaceuticals, such as Viagra, narcotics such as methamphetamine, counterfeit cigarettes and fake $100 U.S. bills, and by selling small arms and missile parts to terror groups and rogue nations.
15. North Korea has a network of informants who monitor and report to the authorities fellow citizens they suspect of criminal or subversive behavior. Unauthorized access to non-state radio or TV broadcasts is severely punished.