25 Everyday Activities That Are Illegal In North Korea

Posted by , Updated on January 22, 2024

Have you ever wondered what happens behind the North Korean border? It’s one of the most secretive regimes in the world. However, thanks to defectors and spies, we have been able to get at least a small glimpse into daily life within the hermit kingdom of North Korea. These are 25 Everyday Activities That Are Illegal In North Korea.



International Phone Calls

worldSource: curiosity.com

The punishment for talking to the outside world is death. Several people have been executed for trying to contact their relatives in South Korea.


Having an Opinion

opinionSource: huffintonpost.com

The only opinion you’re allowed to have is the one approved by the government.


Owning an iPhone

iphoneSource: buzzfeed.com

Or an android, or a PC. Basically anything electronic from the west.



musicSource: metro.co.uk

All music must “glorify the regime.” Listening to foreign tunes is grounds for execution.


Taking Down a Propaganda Poster

propagandaSource: curiosity.com

As US student Otto Warmbier found out, messing with state propaganda will get you decades of hard labor.


Dishonoring the Leader

Kim Jong UnSource: vice.com

Basically, don’t say anything bad about the President…ever.


Calling it North Korea

North KoreaSource: buzzfeed.com

Given that it sees itself as the only true Korea, the official name is Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. And that is the name you had better use while in the country.


Taking Pictures

picturesSource: indiatimes.com

This one applies primarily to tourists…you can’t just take pictures of whatever you want. There are a lot of things and places that are off limits.



DrivingSource: waitbutwhy.com

People aren’t allowed to move freely around the country. In fact, there is less than 1 car per 1000 people.



SarcasmSource: curiosity.com

According to defectors, sarcasm is not a thing in North Korea. Whatever you say is taken seriously…so be very careful.


Talking Negatively About the Government

top secretSource: metro.co.uk

This will earn you a one way ticket to a “re-education camp.”


Asking When Kim Jong-Un was Born

questionsSource: curiosity.com, waitbutwhy.com

Don’t do it. Just don’t. (There’s some confusion…and it’s bothersome that they don’t really know)



alcoholSource: waitbutwhy.com

There are only designated days on which citizens are allowed to drink. In 2012, an officer in the military was executed with a mortar for drinking during the 100-day mourning of Kim Jong Il.


Having a Mohawk

mohawkSource: indiatimes.com

All haircuts must be government approved. (There are 28 approved styles.)


Leaving the Country

planeSource: metro.co.uk

If you leave the country and are caught, you’ll be brought back to North Korea for execution. Also, your family may be executed along with you.


Living in Pyonyang

PyonyangSource: vice.com

The government decides who gets to live in the capital. And not surprisingly, it’s usually the people with the best connections.



censoredSource: metro.co.uk

Watching porn will get you dead. Kim Jong-Un even had his ex-girlfriend executed right in front of her own family because she made a sex tape.



holy bibleSource: buzzfeed.com

As an atheist state, North Korea doesn’t take kindly to practice of religion. In 2013, 80 Christians were publicly executed in a stadium because they were in possession of bibles.


Using the Internet

internetSource: indiatimes.com

People can only access state sponsored websites. Attempting to circumnavigate the firewall will…well, you know the deal.


Not Voting

voteSource: vice.com

Voting is mandatory. Also, voting for the wrong person may be bad for your health.


Wearing Blue Jeans

blue jeansSource: metro.co.uk

You’re not allowed to wear denim because it is associated with North Korea’s sworn enemy – the United States.


Watching TV

TVSource: vice.com

North Koreans are only allowed to watch state propaganda. Several hundred people have been executed for watching South Korean channels.


Escaping Prison

Escaping prisonSource: waitbutwhy.com

While this is illegal most places, what sets North Korea apart is that if you try to escape, your family will be punished for four generations (grandparents, parents, and kids).


Reading Books

Read booksSource: buzzfeed.com

If you show up to North Korea with so much as a travel guide, get ready to have issues. They don’t take “foreign propaganda” lightly.


Making Mistakes

Making mistakesSource: metro.co.uk

Recently, a journalist was executed for making a typo in an article. Thankfully, List25 management is slightly more forgiving!

Photos: Feature Image: pixabay (public domain), 25-22. pixabay (public domain), 21. Mark Fahey from Sydney, Australia, North Korean propaganda (1)CC BY 2.0, 20-16. pixabay (public domain), 15. Acid the meme machine, Topsecretsidebar, CC BY-SA 4.0, 14-11. pixabay (public domain), 10. Kristoferb at English WikipediaPyongyang parkCC BY-SA 3.0, 9-1. pixabay (public domain)