All the Totally Normal Things People Do in North Korea That Land Them in Jail

If you’ve ever participated in a protest or carried with you any Christian religious materials, you’d be in a North Korean prison. And these are only two ordinary acts people have been arrested for in North Korea.

Find out if you’d face imprisonment in North Korea for the totally normal things you do, ahead.

Falling asleep in a meeting

Business People Meeting
This isn’t all that uncommon. | Ltd

Instead of being reprimanded by his superior, Ring Yong Jin ended up in jail for falling asleep in a meeting. Once Jin was in jail, North Korean authorities investigated him. According to the International Business Times, Jin allegedly committed another offense, corruption, which landed him a death sentence.

Next: You could receive 15 years of hard labor for having this type of information.

Possessing religious information

man holds a bible
The country forbids religious documents. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Missionary Kenneth Bae, was charged with acts “hostile to the republic” when he was found with a hard drive containing Christian materials, the BBC says. The North Korean government sentenced Bae to 15 years hard labor. He lost an estimated 60 pounds during his 735 days in captivity. Bae’s prison eventually released him — but only because his health was deteriorating, according to the BBC.

Next: Here’s how your family could get you into trouble.

Being a criminal’s family member

prisoner hands in jail
Some North Korean prisoners didn’t even commit crimes themselves. |

For those related to someone deemed guilty, life in North Korea isn’t pleasant. Authorities arrest and jail people simply for being related to a supposedly guilty individual. According to the BBC, Amnesty International estimates there are hundreds of thousands of detainees in jail who “have not committed any crime, but are merely family members of those deemed guilty of serious political crimes,” Amnesty International told the BBC.

Next: You should think twice before going for a swim.


This sport could land you in jail in North Korea. |

Evan Hunziker, an American who traveled to Asia as a missionary, drunkenly swam from China to North Korea across the Yalu river on a dare, according to the Telegraph. North Korean farmers found Hunziker and immediately handed him over to police who accused him of spying for South Korea. After months in jail, Hunziker returned home to Seattle on Thanksgiving Eve.

Next: Kiss those soap operas goodbye.

Watching soap operas

Teenager girl with remote control laying down
North Koreans may only watch state-sponsored entertainment. |

In 2014, Kim Jong-Un ordered the execution of 50 people “on various charges including watching South Korean soap operas,” according to the Independent. However, others didn’t meet the same fate.

A former North Korean math professor, Jang Seyul, watched an illegal soap opera and later defected to South Korea after being caught, according to The New York Times. Seyul told the publication, “In the future, if they spread, they can even help foster anti-government movements. That’s why the North Korean authorities are so desperate to stop them from spreading.”

Next: You better not leave these materials in public places.

Leaving religious materials in public places

Christian man praying
The man left the book on purpose. | iStock

In 2014, Jeffrey Fowle left a Bible in a North Korean bar, an act which the country’s officials consider proselytising, according to USA Today. North Korean authorities detained Fowle for six months before they released him.

Fowle actually did intend to leave the Bible. He told USA Today, “Having seen the plight of the people, I knew about the severe Christian persecution. I wanted to help them.”

Next: Jail sentences will continue until morale improves.


North Koreans don’t have a right to free speech in their country. | David McNew/Getty Images

Minister Robert Park protested North Korea’s human rights abuses on Dec. 25, 2009. Park walked across the frozen Tumen River, separating China from North Korea, shouting, “South Korea and America love you.” Also, he smashed a framed picture of Kim Jong Il.

Officials arrested Park and allegedly physically and sexually abused him in prison, according to his account of the experience to The Washington Post. He told the publication, “I don’t want others to do this. I just hoped that this could galvanize people to action. Because this is a society that needs change now.”

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Read more: How the Kims Kill: A Closer Look at North Korea’s Affinity for Murder