North Korea is unquestionably the most isolated country in the world. Long governed by recluse Kim Jong Il, his regime has enacted outrageous laws that reach no bounds. From government radios set to low volumes set in every home to journalists traveling with government minders monitoring their every move, here are the top jaw dropping facts about this enigmatic country.
4th largest military – Four out of every 100 citizens are active soldiers. Military investments are sky high, with more than 30% of the country’s budget dedicated to arms.
All for nothing – The largest building in North Korea, the forever-constructed Ryu-Gyong, has no windows or interior. Nevertheless, North Korea continues to pump hundreds of millions towards its reconstruction for a country that attracts less than 100 foreign visitors a year.
Lots of liquor – Kim Jong Il is the biggest buyer of Hennessy cognac, with estimated yearly purchases of $750,000. To put that in perspective, the average North Korean government worker earns $1000 a year and the average citizen less than $500 a year.
Personality Cult – Kim Jong Il leads, arguably, the biggest personality cult in the world. He employs a team of rice inspectors who evaluate rice grain style and texture with a staff of more than 100 dietitians responsible for managing Kim's diet and regular trips to foreign countries to retrieve special foods. Many North Koreans believe his birth triggered an "opening of the skies" with bird song and rainbows.
Food aid – North Korea is one of the largest receivers of international food aid in the world. Only about a fifth of its soil is suitable for food production with more than 30% of the population below nutritional standards. Its main supporter is the World Food Programme.
Press of freedom – North Korea ranks 177 out of 178 in the 2010 Press Freedom Index, beating only Eritrea. This annual ranking is released by the Reporters without Borders, a press advocacy group based in France.