High school students in North Korea are being mobilized for construction work to renovate their schools during summer vacation, Daily NK has learned.
“Many high school students have missed their summer vacation, which was supposed to start on August 1. For example, the students of Seongchon High are working at a construction site at their school, carrying blocks and sand on their back,” a source in South Pyongan Province reported to Daily NK on August 21.
“The students spent their fifteen days of summer vacation at the construction site. Even after classes restarted on August 16, they were given the task of finding the various materials needed to renovate the classrooms.”
Although North Korean students have been mobilized for urban beautification projects such as road and railroad maintenance during vacation periods in the past, this marks the first time that students have been mobilized for school construction work.
“The students can’t even enjoy a day of rest during the vacation. They are only allowed to take a break if they pay at least 20,000 KPW or other bribes to the teachers,” the source said.
Analysts have noted that the mobilization of students for construction work contravenes Article 6 (right to life) and Article 29 (right to education) of the “UN Convention on the Rights of the Child [UNCRC],” which North Korea has ratified.
Articles 6 and 29 of the UNCRC respectively stipulate that “member states shall recognize that every child has the right to life, survival and development,” and that “member states agree that the education of the child shall be directed to the development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential; and the development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.”
The students themselves are trying to find ways to alleviate their fatigue from the forced mobilization.
“The students are still trying to enjoy their time together during the summer vacation. Crackdowns for watching South Korean movies always become stronger during vacation with schools threatening punishment at youth correctional camps, so the students are mostly watching movies from the US or India,”added a source in North Pyongan Province.
“An American film about a hijacked airplane is popular amongst students because of its thrilling storyline, and the Indian movie ‘Ghajini,’ which is about vengeance, is also popular now.”