Top 10 Everyday Activities That Are Illegal in North Korea

Script written by Laura Keating

Everyone knows about North Korea restrictions on citizens. But what is illegal in North Korea? Well, here are a few surprising facts you may not know about North Korea: if you like drinking alcohol, wearing blue jeans or watching television, you shouldn’t move to North Korea. WatchMojo counts down ten perfectly normal things that are banned in North Korea.

Special thanks to our user Abellewis27 for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top%2010%20Everyday%20Activities%20That%20Are%20Illegal%20In%20North%20Korea

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Script written by Laura Keating

Top 10 Everyday Activities That Are Illegal in North Korea


Don’t take any of these activities for granted or you might regret it. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 everyday activities that are illegal in North Korea.

For this list, we’re looking at the activities that are reportedly, allegedly, or apparently a punishable crime in one of the world’s most isolated countries. Note that while we’ve tried to fact check and make sure everything is as accurate as possible, it’s impossible to know some things for certain about a country where not much official information is available to the public.

#10: Drinking Alcohol (Sometimes)

Cheers! On second thought, make that a water. While it’s illegal to sell booze in open markets, drinking alcohol is permitted most of the time. However, it is NOT allowed during official mourning periods, such as the 100 days that followed the passing of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il in 2012. There was a ban on all types of fun during this period, including drinking alcohol. One military officer seemed to think he was above the rule, however, and knocked back a few. Unfortunately, he was caught doing this and he was executed with a mortar shell.

#9: Wearing Blue Jeans

Did you go to a school with a dress code? Well, at least you had the option to go home after school and change into a comfy pair of blue jeans later. Blue jeans – or anything that is not State-mandated attire – is off limits in North Korea. Not all denim is totally off-limits; pants made from black denim get the State A-OK. It seems that blue denim just reeks of corrupt Western Imperialism, but the black version is somehow more politically pure. For the record, the dress code also addresses skirt lengths, hairstyle and acceptable shoe choices.

#8: Watching Pornography

We’re not just talking about viewing porn on the computer here. Any kind of pornography – including overly erotic books, dancing, or drawings – is prohibited in the country. However, just like in the west for those who want it, it can be found. The official laws against viewing pornography carry jail time of up to five years, but sometimes the punishment is more severe – like, death. That’s right. Some guys think they would rather die than have their porn habits exposed – but in North Korea, both could potentially happen.

#7: International Calls

With a strictly closed border, perhaps it should come as no surprise that contact with the wider world is absolutely prohibited. But while it may be no surprise, can you imagine for a minute what it must be like? You won’t be able to tell all your friends that you really do have a girlfriend, really, she just lives in Canada. Joking aside, banning calls outside of the country is the sort of isolationist move that makes you happy for border freedoms. In 2007, a factory boss was supposedly executed in front of a crowd of 150,000 people for making international calls on phones he’d installed in his factories.

#6: Practicing Religion

While one could argue the pros and cons of communism for days, one of its tenets is that religion is obsolete and should not be practiced. In North Korea, it gets extreme. Officially, there is no ban on religion and theoretically a person is free to believe what he or she wishes. In practice, however, anyone caught distributing religious text or sermonizing (whether openly or secretly) risks severe punishment. Hard labor in a work camp is a typical fate, though reports of Christians being executed for owning Bibles have also arisen.

#5: Driving a Car (Alone)

This is not a total ban. After all, you can’t expect the members of North Korea’s elite and its state officials to walk, can you? No, there’s traffic in Pyongyang like in most other capital cities around the world. However, can the everyday citizen cruise around in their own little coop? Not on your (or their) life. There are restrictions on where an average citizen can go, as well as on driving alone. Also, cars are expensive, and not something that most of the citizens in North Korea can afford. Fewer than 1 person in 1000 supposedly has a car in North Korea, though some sources cite 1 in 100. Good for traffic congestion, but not great for personal freedom.

#4: Watching Television

Do you like to get home after a long day and kick back – you know Netflix and chill, or maybe some nice South Korean soap operas? Well, that’s too bad. If you’re in North Korea, you can enjoy the State-mandated propaganda … and that’s it. If you can’t take it, well, honestly better not risk it. Transgressions are sometimes met with execution. In the early 21st century, more than 130 have been reportedly publicly executed for watching South Korean programming.

#3: Playing Music

You might be noticing a theme here. Like TV, all music is state approved … and it’s pretty one-note. There is only one theme allowed: all music must glorify the regime. Remember that the next time you think there are too many songs about love or popping bottles in the club. Not only is producing the wrong sort of music illegal, listening to it is as well. Occasionally there is crossover, but mostly western music is considered decadent, and a crime against the state. As such, it is considered treason. Some have alleged that people have been put to death – simply for listening to some beats.

#2: Traveling Abroad

If you can’t make calls to the outside world, you better believe that visiting it is off limits. Hundreds of people try to leave North Korea annually; very few make it. Because the southern border is so heavily guarded, the most common route is to try to head north into China. However, if caught defectors will be reportedly returned for execution. The trip is dangerous and difficult, and those who risk the escape are aware of the possible cost. One of the most famous defectors, Park Yeon-mi, came from a politically connected family. She speaks frequently about her harrowing tale, and has since become an advocate for human rights in North Korea.

Before we unveil our number one pick, here is an honorable mention:
- Criticizing the Government

#1: Surfing the Web

You wouldn’t even be here, Mojoholics. While there is access to the Internet, most citizens do not have authorization to just surf the net, and the limited world-facing sites are reserved for government officials and some foreigners. In total, there are said to be just over 1000 IP addresses for the entire country. Any citizen who has access to a computer – and not many do, as Sony, Microsoft, and Apple Inc. are not allowed to distribute in North Korea – find themselves on an intranet network known as Kwangmyong, which is almost entirely State run. More mysteriously, very little else is known about the North Korean web.
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