The world has no shortage of tyrannical governments, but when it comes to longevity and the level of oppression in all areas of society, none surpass North Korea. Here are 10 reasons why it can be called the most evil place on earth.
10. All in the Family
In North Korea, serving time in prison is a family affair. When an individual is sent to prison, their family goes with them. Entire extended families are sent to labor camps for offenses like making a joke about the government or voicing anger about the lack of food. Sentences can range from a few years to life.
9. North Korean Prisons Make Ours Look Like Country Clubs
Accurate statistics about North Korea are hard to come by because the government controls everything, but it's estimated that this nation of around 24 million people has several hundred thousand political prisoners. North Korean prisons are actually labor camps where prisoners are literally worked to death and tortured regularly. They are given so little food that they must eat rats and insects to survive. Also, to deter escape attempts, entire families are executed if one family member is caught trying to break out.
8. The Army Trumps All
Despite being in a near constant state of famine and having very limited economic resources, North Korea maintains one of the world's largest standing armies. It is estimated that one-quarter to one-third of all government spending goes to the armed forces. In the late '90s, while expenditures for the armed services continued at these high levels, the country experienced a massive famine, and more than 1 million people are estimated to have died of starvation.
7. The Government Is Your Interior Decorator
Every home in North Korea is required to display portraits of Kim Il Sung -- North Korea's founder -- and his son, Kim Jong-il, who succeeded him in 1994. Not only are citizens required to have these portraits prominently displayed in their homes, but they can't have any other pictures on the walls, not even pictures of family members. To enforce this requirement, there are Public Standards Police who check homes regularly to ensure the leaders' portraits are displayed and cared for in the proper manner.
6. Don't Leave Home Without It
Besides the portrait requirement, every North Korean citizen is required to wear a badge of founder Kim Il Sung on the left breast at all times. A government entity called the Maintenance of Social Order is tasked with enforcing this rule. Damaging your badge even accidentally is a punishable offense. There are stories of people trying to commit suicide because they feared the repercussions of damaging the badge.
5. A Classy Society
Despite calling itself a communist country, North Korea has a highly defined caste system, and class is assigned at birth. There are three classes: the loyal class, the wavering class and the hostile class. These classes are divided into 51 categories that determine the combination of privileges to which each citizen is entitled. Members of the loyal class get all the best jobs and three meals a day. Members of the wavering and hostile classes are relegated to lives of forced labor and imprisonment. While moving up a class is very rare, demotion occurs frequently and for the smallest of infractions. The government denies the existence of this caste system, but interviews with defectors confirm that it is heavily ingrained in daily life and brutally enforced.
4. Mind Control
For those lucky enough to have televisions, there is only one channel and it is controlled by the government. North Korea does not allow its citizens access to the Internet, but has created its own government-approved version of the Web. The education system is built on indoctrinating students into the cult of personality surrounding Kim Il Sung and his successors. When outsiders have been allowed into North Korean schools, the children have been meticulously coached to say how incredibly happy they are and what a paradise their country is.
3. Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
Because of the oppressive conditions and widespread famine, thousands of North Koreans try to defect every year. The easiest route -- which isn't that easy -- is to cross the Tumen River into China. It's estimated there are 40,000-50,000 North Koreans currently hiding in China. Initially, the Chinese government let the defectors stay, but then caved to North Korean demands and now deports defectors back to North Korea where they are sent to labor camps. If citizens are caught trying to escape to South Korea, it is considered one of the highest forms of treason. They are subsequently tortured and in some cases are publicly executed.
2. Biting the Hand That Feeds Them
Despite receiving food and humanitarian aid from South Korean civic groups, North Korea continually issues threats of war to its southern neighbor. In March of 2010, a South Korean naval vessel was struck by a North Korean torpedo, killing 46 sailors. Despite evidence to the contrary, North Korea denies it had anything to do with the attack, and continues to expect aid.
1. The Kids Are Not All Right
A recent report issued by the United Nations said that the growth of one-third of North Korean children has been stunted because of malnutrition. Despite the North Korean government portraying itself as the protector of the people, there are an estimated 200,000 orphaned children living on the streets whom the government has abandoned and left to starve.