Average North Korean's Knowledge of the Rest of the World

How much does the average citizen of the DPRK know about the rest of the world, and history, and science and the like?
I’m sure they get fed a lot of garbage about the US and South Korea and whoever else, but what do they know about, say, Guyana or Iceland or Eritrea?
And what about history, like history not directly relevant (that is, contradictory) to the state’s version of history? Do they know basically the truth about the Vikings and Leonardo daVinci and Egyptian pharaohs? Dinosaurs?
What about things like galaxies, the great distance to stars, what the middle of the Earth is made of, things like that? Would they be deceived about matters like what the deepest point in the ocean is, or how marsupials are different from placentals? Do they know that the Moon is spherical?


How many Americans know what the center of the earth is made of? Or the difference between marsupials and placental mammals? Without googling or checking an encyclopedia, and keeping in mind the far greater chances for education.

EDIT:I did not mean to be snarky, just pointing out most people don’t care or know about things outside their experience.

From what I read about NORK defectors to SOUK, the education is adequate, not exemplary. Granted these might be outliers.

To the OP, I did not know that NORKs were all blind or hunchbacked as to be unable to discern the shape of the moon by the simple expedient of looking up on clear full moon nights.

That only means they realise its circular, not spherical.

That’s actually an interesting question from the OP.

The fact that the moon is spherical has been known for millenia.

Disliking a certain country does not mean that its inhabitants should be attributed stupidity on a general scale like the OP tends to do.

Well, I read that specific example as somewhat tongue in cheek. I know the NORKs are told things about the supernatural nature of the Kims, so IMO all bets are off as far as what they know.

I have also wondered about the OP’s question on occasion. Teaching your slaves/minions/Soylent Fodder about Iceland and stars may not have much value…

Okay, so stop being snarky.
Yes, many Americans don’t know or care about things like marsupials, Vikings, Leonardo DaVinci or dinosaurs…but they were taught about them in school. The OP is asking whether North Koreans are also taught about the same things.
And it’s a good question.

From watching the few youtube videos by visitors to NKorea, you get the impression that the people there have zero interest in anything from the outside world. (for example, they ignore the cameras, mp3 players etc, that the tourists show to their North Korean guides. Obviously, the guides know that talking to a westerner can be a death sentence,so they won’t reveal much…but in the few glimpses they get of new gadgets, etc…their lack of emotion seems to be genuine, not just a well-rehearsed cover-up.

Ignorance isn’t the same thing as stupidity. Besides I have a cousin who in his late teens believed the sun and moon were the same object just at different times of the day. He is of average or above average intelligence and product of a supposedly open first-world education and mass media. Who knows what weird ideas the average North Korean may have simply because they haven’t been told any better, intelligence doesn’t really come into it.

The average DPRK citizen is literate and numerate. Their understanding of the physical sciences is likewise fairly typical of a decently educated person these days. Where they will be lacking is history, which the party has either extensively re-written in line with party policy, or simply omits. Education beyond the basics is heavily focused on matters related directly to one’s profession.

Where the education system gets scary is in the prison camps. Children born there are taught to read and write but little else. An escapee from there said that he was unaware of the existence of nations beyond North Korea, South Korea, the great enemy of the US, and China. Their existence was simply never mentioned.

The propaganda line in NK is that NK Is the best nation on earth. NK is full of poverty, human rights abuses, ineptitude, etc. so any valid study into foreign nations is going to be troublesome because virtually every nation is better than NK and that would be obvious after looking at other nations. So I seriously doubt the average NK knows that the average mexican per capita GDP is 15000 a year for example. That would dilute the party line.

I have no idea about middle age european history of what they would think of that. Don’t most nations mostly just study their own history (since the US is an offshoot of Europe we would be curious about European and Roman history as well as our own)? How much does the average american know about the history of China or Brazil for example?

I was curious so I did some research. It seems NORKcommenced a major programme of overhauling the education system in the early 2000’s, emphasising IT training. The literacyrate per wiki is 99%.

“Like the OP tends to do”??
Nothing I said could be reasonably construed as me saying NKoreans are stupid. Get a grip.
Also, as others have pointed out, it’s not obvious from direct observation that the Moon is a sphere. It’s not obvious from observation alone that the Earth goes around the Sun either. However long these facts have been known has no bearing on whether people in the DPRK learn them, nor on their intelligence generally. For thousands of years the smartest people in the world thought the Earth was at the center of the universe. Again, get a grip.

Your comment about DPRK’s high literacy rate further shows that you, perhaps willfully, misunderstand my question. You don’t see how a country could have a very high literacy rate yet its citizens still be ignorant of certain facts? Whatever.

Their government lies to them all the time about certain things; I’m wondering how far it goes, basically.

And to everyone who said “Plenty of Americans don’t know some of that stuff either”, you don’t get it.

Actually (though it’s really a digression from the purpose of the thread), it really is.

It’s been known the Moon was a sphere (or close enough not to matter) for a couple thousand years using tools no more complex than eyes and brains.

That it can’t be a circle becomes clear from observations anybody can make.

Now this is closer to true, though, technically, it actually was observations of the orbits of the planets that led to this. But it takes extended observations of the type that most people aren’t going to make.

That’s clear now, but it wasn’t from your OP. Your question was phrased in such a way that it wasn’t clear whether you wanted to know what knowledge the average NK citizen might have been officially taught, might have retained through the normal process of growing up (and forgetting), or might have acquired through means other than official state education.

Well, yes, but it wasn’t actually clear what you wanted.

It’s probably along the lines of “the Moon is spherical. This great discovery was unearthed in the ninth century by the Glorious Leader Kim Old Time.”

I think it’s pretty clear the OP wonders about what North Koreans understand, in the context of their government limiting access to accurate information and spreading disinformation.

I don’t know much about this, but I think sports would be a good example. Do North Koreans have any kind of accurate idea what competitive golf or bowling are like? Official accounts from NK say that Kim Jong Il shot 11 holes-in-one in the first game of golf he ever tried, and bowled a perfect 300 in the first game of bowling he tried.

What is their understanding of how weather works? Reports say Kim could make it rain through the force of his will.

How much do they understand about medicine and biology? An official biography from the North Korean web site stated that Kim did not defecate.

Do they know what people eat in the rest of the world? Kim was reported to have invented a food consisting of a ground beef patty between pieces of bread.

I bet people in North Korea can get into pretty big trouble by teaching each other information that contradicts official pronouncements, and good information must be pretty tough to find, vet, or share.

Here’s an interesting article about a one man’s trip to North Korea.

One passage relevant to this question describes a conversation the tourist had with his guide:

The tour guides are in no way representatives of the average North Korean. The only people who get to be tour guides and interact with gasp Americans are of the most unassailable party loyalty, with families that are also perfectly loyal. Or at least they’re the ones that do the best at faking loyalty. So it may be a real lack of interest, or a good fake, but it has little to do with what the average citizen thingk.

Black market MP3 players, DVD players, etc. are hugely popular. This is causing a new set of problems for the Kim regime, because it’s pretty hard to keep up the fiction of NK being the best, most prosperous country on earth when the people are watching smuggled DVDs of South Korean soap operas.

Right, but is it possible that North Korean’s are merely taught that “the Kims” are the exception to the rule. Maybe you can become a competent gastroenterologist in N. Korea and still believe that Kim Jung-IL did not defecate, just as you can also become a competent OBGYN or fertility specialist in the U.S. and still believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. There are anthropologists and paleontologists who believe in creationism. There are geologists who believe that the earth is only 6000 years old, etc. You don’t need to completely ignore reality in order to drink the Kool-Aid, you just need to be willing to compartmentalize what you have learned enough to be able to accept what you’ve otherwise been brainwashed to believe whenever the situation requires that you do so.

Or perhaps North Koreans have some notion that not everything said about the Kims is accurate, but they understand that some puffery goes along with office.

I’m trying to think of an analogy to the scorpion story. What would an American say to a Brazilian who told her about a giant spider that ate birds? I feel pretty sure that just about any American would be interested enough to ask a question or two.

For 70 years of the USSR, we in the west heard goofy stories about the goofy propaganda the Soviet leaders fed to their minions, glorifying the USSR in all kinds of silly ways. (Or were those stories the propaganda that we were being fed?) The standing joke was, regarding all kinds of discoveries, “Ve had it first!” It was even parodied in Star Trek (original series), with Chekov saying that from time to time.

The stories we hear about North Korea often seem to be the same sort of thing, taken to exaggerated extremes, to the point of becoming a silly caricature. The OP may be trying to ask, how for-reals is that? And how brainwashed are the citizens there, having been raised on a steady diet of that?

Whatever the answer to that may be, it’s clearly getting harder for the regime to maintain full control of all information and knowledge, with the proliferation of electronic communications, which the regime can barely control. It must certainly have been much easier to control all knowledge a generation or two ago, than it is now.