The five weirdest facts about North Korea and its leader

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jan 06, 2016 14:02 IST
A South Korean army soldier watches a TV screen showing a file image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul. North Korea said Wednesday it had conducted a hydrogen bomb test, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would put Pyongyang a big step closer toward improving its still-limited nuclear arsenal. (AP Photo)

North Korea on Wednesday said it had successfully conducted a test of a miniaturised hydrogen nuclear device on Wednesday.

The announcement on North Korean state TV followed the detection of a 5.1 magnitude earthquake near its known nuclear test site earlier in the day.

Here are five bizarre facts about the secretive nation and its leaders:

1. No military training

Its leader Kim Jong-un is probably the only general in the world who has absolutely zero military training.

In a country with 1,190,000 active military personnel, as well as 600,000 reservists and almost 6 million paramilitary officers, the fact that they are commanded by a man without a single day of military training is frightening enough; but what makes it worse is the recent testing of a hydrogen bomb.

Kim Jong-un was made a four-star “daejing” - or general - of the North Korean armed forces in September 2010 before being appointed marshal in July 2012.

2. It’s 105, not 2016, in North Korea

North Korea’s bizarre Juche ideology, which underpins every aspect of how the country runs itself, has resulted in many odd cultural differences. Arguably the oddest is the calendar, which deviates from its Gregorian counterpart by beginning in 1912, the year when Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-un’s grandfather, was born.

3. Sins of the father fall on the son...and his son too

North Korea’s penal system takes the concept of family punishment very seriously. If a person is found to be violating the law, or sent to a prison camp, it affects their whole family which is usually sent to work with them for the duration of their sentence.

4. Kim Jong-il’s favourite drink: Cognac

The deceased leader reportedly imported the equivalent of $763,000 of cognac a year due to his fondness for the French brandy. And you thought rappers were extravagant.

5. Director abducted to start a film industry

In 1978, famed South Korean film director Shin Sang-ok and his ex-wife Choi Eun-hee were kidnapped in Hong Kong and taken to North Korea, on the direct orders of Kim Jong-Il, in order to help create a film industry for the country. They remarried as per his wishes and Shin directed seven propaganda films with Kim as the executive producer.

South Korean film director Shin Sang-ok and his wife Choi Eun-hee. (Agency Photo)

The best known is a Godzilla ripoff named Pulgasari, in which a tiny doll made out of rice grows into a mythical creature and helps the proletarian peasants overthrow the feudal monarchy that has enslaved them and corrupted their land.

Luckily, the couple were able to escape after eight years of their virtual imprisonment during a film festival in Vienna.

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