Compulsory workbook purchase stresses students and factories

Pyongyang¡¯s Dandelion Workbook factory. Photo: Rodong Sinmun

The North Korean government has ordered students to purchase a specific publication said to reflect Kim Jong Un’s affection for the younger generation. Student are obliged to purchase more than three of the workbooks for the new school term in September, and are said to be expressing surprise and annoyance.

“Ahead of the fall term in September, the ‘Dandelion Workbooks’ are being delivered to schools across North Korea. The schools are instructing teachers to tally the number of students for workbook sales,” a source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK on August 28.

“The Dandelion Workbook is comprised of 30-40 A4 pages, and has been in print since last year. Since then, students have been banned from buying any other workbooks at the market.”

According to the source, the Dandelion Workbook factory has become a “factory of particular interest for the Party,” after Kim Jong Un visited the site in person and encouraged production last year. The factory claims to have the capacity to produce 50 million books per year, but this has not been verified.

The North Korean media has been announcing that the factory is producing a quality workbook for schools in accordance with Kim Jong Un’s “affection for the youth” and “emphasis on education.”

However, Kim Jong Un’s sudden interest has placed a significant burden on the factory cadres. They were ordered to produce the workbooks using their own capital, but as sales have been sluggish, it was decided that students would be ordered to purchase them.

“The production and sale of the workbooks has been handed down to the provincial education departments by the Ministry of Education, imposing a specific quota. The sole aim is to report the highest amount of sales to Kim Jong Un,” the source said.

“The schools must sell all books assigned to them by the authorities and are demanding that wealthier students purchase more than 10 workbooks each. Every student must buy more than three workbooks, and students from poor families are even forced to buy them on credit.”

Accordingly, many students have become greatly irritated, as imported workbooks with better illustrations and quality can instead be purchased with the money spent on the Dandelion Workbook.

“The Dandelion Workbooks are being sold at 800-1000 KPW at the markets, but they are not popular. They are of course better quality than the old blackened workbooks made of rice straw, but compared to imported workbooks with more attractive designs, they are very unpopular among the students,” said a separate source in South Pyongan Province.

“Even though the schools are telling the students that they can receive workbooks of high quality thanks to the Marshal (Kim Jong Un), they’re asking, ‘If so, shouldn’t the Marshal provide the books for free? What, is he a businessman now?'”

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