North Korea’s education authorities have taken the unprecedented step of locking the doors to school classrooms and affixing them with “paper seals” amid efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Daily NK has learned. 

Daily NK reported last week that North Korea’s education ministry had ordered on June 22 that all schools must go on “vacation” from July 1, citing the spread of COVID-19 in neighboring China. 

“In addition to the vacation order, all universities, elementary, middle and high schools were instructed to disinfect all classrooms from June 29 to June 30 in cooperation with provincial, city and county disease prevention authorities,” a Daily NK source in the country said on Wednesday. “The paper seals were ordered to be placed on classroom doors on Monday.” 

SEALING THEM OFF

Specifically, the authorities ordered that four palm-sized “paper seals” be placed in a vertical line on doors at both the front and back entrances of classrooms. The seals are stamped with the insignia of local disease prevention authorities and signify that the classrooms have been sterilized. 

According to the source, the seals must be placed between the door and door frame. Opening a door would break the seal, making it easier to determine if someone has entered the classroom. 

The authorities also demanded that staff and even students take part in disinfecting surfaces and other areas of the schools before July 1.

“Disinfectant in spray, liquid and powder form was sent from the central disease control committee and arrived [at the schools] on June 26. Students and staff disinfected the schools over three days,” the source told Daily NK. “They began at 7:30 AM, then came back after lunch to continue working from 1 PM to 10 PM.”

SEND THEM HOME

The authorities also ordered that students originally from areas outside of Pyongyang who were studying in the capital city must return home during the vacation period. 

“They were ordered to leave the city between June 30 and the evening of July 2,” the source said. “University administrative offices have been working alongside the Ministry of Railways to organize train tickets for them.” 

The source added that “large trains were standing ready to take the students home.” 

In the past, North Korea had arranged regular passenger trains to send such students home for vacations or holidays; on this occasion, however, the authorities directed that students must be transported on special trains that would head directly to various regions throughout the country. Students were also reportedly told to ride specific train cars depending on what university they are attending. 

“The goal is to transport the students out of Pyongyang quickly,” the source said, noting, “The students took East Sea lines 1 and 2, the Central Inland Line or the West Coast Line and departed from different stations and and at different times, depending on where they were headed.” 

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Ha Yoon Ah is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.