''Everything is very rigid in North Korea,'' [a young, female, North Korean defector in Seoul] said, claiming that it was a taboo for women to smoke or wear their hair longer than shoulder-length, let alone consort with men in public or henna their hair, as she does now. ''If my friends in North Korea saw me now, they'd say, 'She's lost her mind,' '' she said proudly. ''I would be considered a bad, bad girl.''
She said that her two best girlfriends were in the North Korean military and that she thought it would be impossible for them to understand life here, though, at moments it seemed just as impossible for those who were here to understand.
In North Korea, they had been required to take daily ideology classes in which they were versed in the illustrious past of their leaders. Given the mythopoetics of the North Korean government and the propaganda -- Kim Il Sung singlehandedly beat back the Japanese, then the Americans; Kim Jong Il showed such scholarly aptitude that his teachers came to him for lessons -- they were instructed that their lives should be molded in the image of these gods and that strict discipline, order and sacrifice were necessary to achieve a state of juche, or self-reliance based on what was best for the collective.
[Excerpt of an article by Michael Paterniti, GQ magazine]