• Nepal!

    Nepal: Phewa Lake. Go Now!

    Nepal
    This landlocked country mixes the cultures of the Indian sub-continent with the high Himalayas. Explore Nepal!

  • Japan!

    Japan: Traditional foods. Go Now!

    Japan
    Japan has a rich culture that is visible today in the country's dress, architecture, language, food (pictured), and lifestyle. Begin Your Journey!

  • Bahrain!

    Bahrain: Desert. Go Now!

    Bahrain
    This tiny country has overcome the desert and has found a way to thrive, like this tree on al Jazair Beach. Explore Bahrain!

  • Laos!

    Laos: Karst peak. Go Now!

    Laos
    The simplicity and natural beauty of the countryside make Laos a hidden gem in Southeast Asia overlooked by most travelers. Begin Your Journey!

  • Tajikistan!

    Tajikistan: A yurt in the mountains. Go Now!

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    The high mountains have mysteries around every turn, including yurts (pictured), a home for the nomadic people. Go Now!

Culture & Identity of North Korea

WARNING: North Korea is unstable, please read this travel warning before going!

Introduction

Life in North Korea is dictated by the government and there is no alternative. Although details of life in North Korea are based on some outside observations and communication with North Korean tour guides, much of what is known, including that below is mere speculation based upon the few facts that are known to be true.

The people are taught from a young age about North Korea, the country's leadership, and the outside world, as viewed from the government's perspective. As no outside opinions or viewpoints exist in the country, most people believe what they are taught and are unlikely to question that which the government says, especially publically.

Life in North Korea is consumed by the government as nearly every adult works a full schedule and once children are old enough to enter day care most do. These are government-run and once children are about 5 years old they go to a government-run boarding school until the age of 16. During this time there is no possible way parents can be a greater influence than their teachers who spend every day with them. And the teachers are appointed by the government and overseen by the government so their perspectives and information is likely in line with official government opinion.

After years of boarding school it is difficult for any parent to believe their child could have any doubts of the government. Even if parents disagree with the government privately, it is unlikely they would pass those opinions on to their children since their children spend more time in government-run education facilities than with their parents. None-the-less, parents care deeply for their children and want to see them succeed, human nature can't be completely removed no matter how much time is spent in biased educational facilities.

Upon reaching adulthood, which appears to be in the upper teen years, young North Koreans are expected to marry, start a family, and begin working. At this time the cycle repeats itself as these young people enter the work force. Nearly a third of the population works in agriculture, with everyone else in the industrial and services sectors. Hours are long in North Korea and conditions could be in any number of places as there is no outside source to guarantee worker safety or properly operating machinery.

Despite all the hard work, the pay in North Korea is likely very poor, although the government provides that which the people need to survive. This makes the people even more reliant on the government, the underlying theme in North Korean culture and their daily way of life.

Identity

The North Koreans view themselves as "Korean" just as the South Koreans do. As in the south, the Koreans in the north are very proud people who will defend who they believe they are at all costs. After centuries under foreign rule, the entire Korean Peninsula reacted in a very proud fashion since gaining independence in the early 1950s. Like the south, this "Korean" identity is truly all encompassing of the North Korean lifestyle, but focused on ethnicity and politics. However, unlike the south, the North Korean lifestyle and culture that supports their identity of being "Korean" is very different from the lifestyle in the south. In this way, the North Koreans only accept citizens of the country who follow governmental stances, speak with the correct accent, work in the right fields, and act in the correct manner to truly be "Korean."

Most of the North Korean people believe the South Koreans are somewhat "Korean" much like themselves, but also believe the South Korean government as an evil so no one from the south can be trusted, nor entirely included in the North's definition of "Korean."

This page was last updated: November, 2013