Child is king of the country

 By Yanis Chan

We arrived at the June 9th Middle School at 2.40pm, just after extra-curricular activities had started.

Students in North Korea have a fixed timetable all year through—classes from 8am to 12pm and afterschool activities from 2pm onwards, our guide said. Students are free to choose the activities that suit their talents, from learning musical instruments to studying math.

This middle school, named after the date on which Kim Il-sung ordered it to be built, is a showcase school in Pyongyang open to tourists.

In the auditorium, 13 girls wearing high heels, white shirts, above-the-knee blue skirts and, of course, red neckerchiefs stood lined on stage ready to perform. When they started to sing, they moved in perfect unison. There were a number of performances, a girl on an electric bass guitar off to one side and another with an accordion.

After the performance, while walking to the tour bus, I saw two boys in uniforms playing volleyball in the yard. I waved to them to ask if I could play, a wild request as most North Koreans are not allowed to talk to us.

Then, they threw me the ball. And I hit it back. I wish we could have stayed there longer.

This small moment was one of the best memories of my trip. The first time I felt even remotely close to North Korean life since I passed through immigration.

That night in the hotel bookstore, I bought a book called “Child is king of the country.”  In the chapter “Placing Happiness of Young Generation in the Topmost Position of Consideration”, it says:

“The great leader Comrade Kim Jong Il is the very one who is bringing true life and boundless happiness to the young generation and giving full scope to their hope and talents like the fatherly leader Comrade Kim Il Sung did.”

No matter where they believe their happiness comes from, to me, the boys are no different than any other young people in the world—energetic and curious.

Watch a video of the “children’s performance” at the June 9 Middle School by Joanna Wong here: 

Author: robin

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