What about Supporting North Korean Schools and Students?

Daily NK
Lee Kwang Baek

According to the newsletter of “Good Friends” published recently, the students living in the dormitories of technical colleges have not been able to eat anything due to the shortage of food for more than 10 days.

If this were to be true, there is a sentiment of utter despair and helplessness since there is both the South Korea and the international society’s food support going into North Korea at the moment. There has been a food supply of 400,000 ton being exerted to North Korea since July, and there is continually a grand supply of food to assist the flood victims. How is it possible that in spite of all these efforts, there are still starving North Korean youth?

According to the newsletter, the situation has worsened to the point where the teachers and principles in schools and kindergartens have to go out on a limb to retain some food supply. In Wonsan, children of the school age are unable to attend school. They are spending their time at the market selling ice cream, vegetables or carrying goods to earn money for living. There have been schools in Hamkyung province reported to have stopped running due to this reason.

It is difficult to determine whether this phenomenon is spread out nationwide, or simply applicable to some students or specific region. However, in spite of the difficulty in determining the extent of these effects, considering the non-transparent state of the distribution of food provision, it is highly likely that these effects are spread out nationwide.

The newsletter states that students are not only responsible for their own stationeries and backpacks, but they are also for the necessary cleaning tools, desks and chairs, and even the chalks used by the teachers.

North Korean government enforced the students to pay for the operation of schools since the mid 1990s. The government collects fees for school operation, oil, and even the fee for designing tank constructions. It is said that students face hard times in even attending schools if they don’t pay these fees.

The children who should be spending their youth running around and being free are spending their study time in the market earning money. The level of begging has expanded to group theft on the streets. According to the villagers in Donglim, North Pyongan, 1 out of the 3 children is unable to attend school due to the lack of money. This is sufficient evidence of “School Breakdown” phenomenon.

There is a proverb that even God cannot salvage poverty. However, perhaps North Korea may be an exception to this proverb. The fault of school breakdown and poverty lies not in the civilians, but solely in Kim Jong Il. All of these phenomenons after one another are tragic ramifications of the ignorance and inhumane dictatorial leadership of Kim Jong Il. It is difficult to hide our distress and sorrow on the issue.

However, in retrospect, this phenomenon of school breakdown can also be perceived as the breakdown of North Korean free education system. What is the “free education system” that Kim Jong Il has so much bragged about? The nature of North Korean education is nothing but a systematic tool to make children as bullets and bombs to protect Kim Jong Il.

Was it not a tool to crush the creativity of young, intelligent minds to force them into becoming the slaves of the system? It wouldn’t be an exaggeration if we were to say that it was this education system that has created the North Korean society of today.

School breakdown phenomenon can also be interpreted as the destruction of idolization education revolved around Kim Jong Il glorification. The ideology inculcation system that bound all children and students in North Korea is finally coming to collapse.
The reason for the collapse is simple. Kim Jong Il regime is losing the strength to control it. We must carefully analyze this trend. While we must strive to stop the phenomenon of children starving and/or dropping out of schools, we must actively be supportive of the current situation that the North Korean government is losing its reign of its people.

We must focus our attention to the independent economic activities taken by the North Koreans, rather than them being dependent on the government sponsored rations. We must put our focus on restoring the practical right to live for the North Korean civilians and allow them to feel more connected to the international society, rather than Kim Jong Il ‘s regime.

The international community must come up with discerning measures to support the students and the parents to experience their independent economic activities and understand the vanity of the glorification-based education system of North Korea. It is time to carefully discern the possible remedies for individual schools and students, rather than continuing the sponsorship through Kim Jong Il regime and South Korean government.


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