5 Strangest Places in North Korea

Posted on May 02, 2012
Views: 8,254

Subscribe to our newsletter

Advertisements

North Korea is one of the most secluded countries in the world, if not the most secluded. As a result many aspects of the country are totally baffling to outsiders.

1.

Samtaeseong

North Korea banned any influences deemed “U.S. imperialistic” under Kim Jong-il. However, there have been a few signs of this easing up in the past few years, such as the opening of North Korea's first burger stand “Samtaeseong” in Pyongyang.

samtaeseong

The restaurant opened in 2009 and at the time exclusively served hamburgers, waffles and draft beer. Not surprisingly, hamburgers themselves aren't called such (again, U.S. imperialist influence) but rather are “mincemeat sandwiches.” When Kim Jong-il announced that he would construct a factory for making hamburgers he gave them the name “double bread with meat.” At the very least we can call the new name an improvement.

People looking to get a freedom sandwich in North Korea can expect to pay around $1.70, unless you live in North Korea because that's almost twice your daily wage. Still, Samtaeseong has proven to be a popular hotspot with both locals and tourists alike, and while reviews for the burgers are still out, like it or lump it, the existence of a fast-food restaurant (with plans for more branches in the future) in the most hardline communist country in the world is nothing but a show of America's influence. Up next: reality television and crippling heart disease.

samtaeseong1

2.

Ryugyong Hotel

Often regarded as the ugliest building in the world (a dubious honor, we're sure) the Ryugyong Hotel is a one-hundred and eight story structure in Pyongyang. Sometimes dubbed the Pyramid of Pyongyang for its strange shape, the hotel was started in 1987 and stopped in 1993. It seems unlikely that it will ever be finished as a functioning hotel, though rumors say that there's outside interest in finishing the project.

ryugyong hotel

The building consists of three-thousand suites and five revolving restaurants, at least as it was planned. Currently it sits at the heart of the city as a concrete shell, but it's massive size (one-thousand and eighty-two feet) makes it difficult to ignore as it dominates the skyline. Interestingly enough, however, those living in the city deny that it exists. Tourists traveling by taxi have found it impossible to use the hotel as a landmark because no one admits that the building is there. It's even airbrushed out of official photographs.

In 1992 the Soviet Union fell, taking with it much of North Korea's financial support. When the project was halted a year later estimates to finish it came in at around two-billion dollars. No, that's not for a Bond-villain's laser weapon, that's for a hotel. Even if it is ever finished, who the hell is supposed to stay there? Even ignoring the low wages of the average North Korean, there's no real tourism industry to speak of. If there was, they probably could have finished the damn thing by now.

3.

The Arch of Reunification

The Arch of Reunification was erected in 2001 to commemorate Kim Il-sung's proposal of a reunited Korea. The arch stands above the Reunification Highway, which leads from Pyongyang to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The concrete arch features two Korean women dressed in traditional garb holding up a sphere with the map of a unified Korea on it. It's one of the more thoughtful gestures from the dictatorship. So thoughtful, in fact, that it almost makes you forget about those tunnels they dug leading into South Korea. Almost.

arch of reunification

Anyway, the arch is strange for two reasons. One, the highway it stands above is largely unused. Tourists in the capital city often remark how the highway has large lanes but little traffic. The use of so few cars is attributed to the poor financial standing of the average citizen, so bikes are a more common form of transportation. But the streets are so empty that tour guides will cut across lanes on either side to avoid the numerous potholes (because it would cost too much money to properly repair the roads).

Stranger still is the belief that the arch itself serves a dual purpose. According to some (including one documentary), the arch was constructed with explosives inside. In case of an invasion the arch could be detonated to create a sort of roadblock for infantry and artillery. Of course, this could just be the musings of conspiracy theorists or North Korea telling little white lies. We may never know, but it sure does make the arch seem just a little suspicious.

4.

Kijong-dong

What happens if you take the Ryugyong Hotel and turned it into an entire village? Kijong-dong, better known as Propaganda Village, happens. Built in the 1950s for what we can only assume was a fortune, Kijong-dong is situated on North Korea's end of the DMZ and has a grand total of two-hundred people living in it, if you believe the North Korean government. In reality there are absolutely no residents. It's completely empty.

kijong dong

The village was designed to show off the virtues of the North Korean lifestyle to South Korean villages in view and lead to defection. The brightly painted concrete buildings were much more lavish than rural villagers in either country could afford. Each building is wired for electricity with lights running on a timer. Skeleton crews appear at night to maintain the buildings and to give the general appearance that someone might actually be living there.

However, anyone with a set of binoculars can see that the buildings are empty, some completely, lacking floors, ceilings and even glass windows. Whether or not the village has led to defection is unknown, but it’s hard to imagine anyone falling for the trick nearly sixty years later. Amazingly, the site is still maintained.

5.

Web Cafes

Control of information is key to communist rule, and North Korea is no exception. In truth, North Korea doesn't really have internet access so much as it does intranet. These websites, almost all of them government controlled, are as secluded as the country itself, and for many the only means of accessing them are through web cafes.

The country's intranet service Kwangmyong offers no connection to the outside world. Instead, requests can be made for content. If accepted, Kwangmyong downloads, censors and re-uploads the content. However, Kwangmyong remains unattainable to most people. 90% of North Koreans are completely unfamiliar with the Internet. While it's theoretically possible to pick up a satellite connection from other Asian ISPs, smuggling the needed components into the country is next to impossible.

web cafes

Despite being the capital city, Pyongyang has only a few web cafes. Regardless, as of 2007 Kwangmyong only permitted access to a little over thirty different pages. Hotels in the city offer e-mail services. However, users aren't permitted to type their messages directly. Instead they must be written and handed to an employee. Many tourists have noted that their messages are never received (and probably never sent).

North Korea is unable to host their own web pages and as a result rely instead on China, Japan, Germany and even the United States for servers. The government elite, however, have unfiltered, unlimited access through satellite connections with Germany.

Written by Ben Dennison – Copyrighted © www.weirdworm.com

Advertisements
Random
Page 1 of 2
Loading...

Latest Articles

20 Bizarre Flavors of Food You’ll Find Around the World

20 Bizarre Flavors of Food You’ll Find Around the World

People all over the world have different tastes in all sorts of things. Music, movies, television, politics, and so forth. And in some cases, it’s their actual tastes that vary...

20 of the Most Terrifying Things Kids Have Ever Said

20 of the Most Terrifying Things Kids Have Ever Said

Kids say the darndest things, as the old saying goes. They also say some of the most horrifying things, as well. Most of the time it’s just because they don’t know any better...

20 Creepiest Abandoned Hospitals From Around the World

20 Creepiest Abandoned Hospitals From Around the World

Hospitals can be scary places. They’re sterile and often impersonal, and oh yeah, there are often people dying all around you. And let’s not even get into the fact that...

7 Weird Ways People Try to Get Drunk

7 Weird Ways People Try to Get Drunk

People like their booze, and have for centuries upon centuries. It’s not a secret that basically as long as there have been human beings roaming the Earth, there have been human...

8 Ways Science Says Sex Is the Best Medicine

8 Ways Science Says Sex Is the Best Medicine

With a few odd exceptions, people love sex. Sex sells, people enjoy watching it, and more importantly, people enjoy having it. That’s because sex makes you feel good, and it...

10 Absolutely Baffling Celebrity Cameos in Music Videos

10 Absolutely Baffling Celebrity Cameos in Music Videos

Believe it or not, music videos are actually things that still exist, despite the fact that channels like MTV would have you believe otherwise. Celebrities popping up in a music...

7 TV and Movie Side Characters That Deserve Their Own Spinoffs

7 TV and Movie Side Characters That Deserve Their Own Spinoffs

One of the hardest things about writing fiction is coming up with interesting, fully developed side characters. After all, you can’t spend too much time on them because you...

8 Incredible Facts About Game of Thrones

8 Incredible Facts About Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones is an absolute juggernaut. There’s no denying it. Along with Walking Dead, you’d be hard pressed to find a television show that gets more online chatter that...

7 Books That Should Would Make Great TV Shows

7 Books That Should Would Make Great TV Shows

With the return of the immensely successful and wildly popular Game of Thrones, it’s only natural to look at the bookshelf and imagine what books may have a chance to rival the...

8 Completely Off the Wall Zombie Movies

8 Completely Off the Wall Zombie Movies

First things first, let’s not pretend that zombie movies are ever going to be exactly “normal.” After all, we’re talking about movies that center on the conceit that the...