Approximately ten students from Mangyongdae Revolutionary School have reportedly died from suspected COVID-19 infections, Daily NK has learned. Mangyongdae Revolutionary School is an elite institution charged with educating the children of fallen revolutionaries and high-ranking government officials.

According to a source on Apr. 30, Mangyongdae Revolutionary School head Oh Ryong Taek was demoted from major general to senior colonel, and those held directly responsible for the deaths were discharged from the military after news regarding the incident was belatedly reported during a plenary meeting of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) Party Committee in early April. 

The source said that the school was criticized during the plenary meeting for having failed to “thoroughly pay attention to [efforts] to control the transmittable disease,” which led to a “serious deficiency.”   

Mangyongdae Revolutionary School started preparations for its students to attend the Oct. 10, 2020 military parade in May of last year. In September, there was a surge in suspected cases of COVID-19 among some of the students, twelve of whom died. The twelve students reportedly had preexisting conditions and died after exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms such as high fevers, coughs, shortness of breath, diarrhea, and hemoptysis. 

The school’s hospital attempted to escape blame for the deaths by claiming the students had become ill because the long hours they spent practicing for the upcoming military parade kept them from sleeping properly. The school claims that the students died from sepsis and alveolar shock, but those within the military believe they died from COVID-19. 

News of the deaths was belatedly reported during the KPA Party Committee’s plenary meeting, where it was decided that Oh should be demoted for failing to prevent a major incident where the “children of fallen warriors were killed en masse.” 

“In January of 2012, Oh had an hourlong individual meeting with Kim Jong Un when he conducted on-the-spot guidance at the school at the beginning of the New Year,” the source explained. “While at the school, Kim emphasized the ‘importance of continuing the ‘revolutionary bloodline’ at the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School, which had been visited by Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il in the past. During the meeting, Kim presented Oh, who had inherited the position from his father Oh Jae Won – an anti-Japanese revolutionary warrior and the first head of the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School – with a [military] star as a gift.”

Students at the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School in Pyongyang. / Image: KCNA

Heads of the school hold a military rank equal to that of a major general. The source explained that Oh was officially recognized as a major general but treated like a lieutenant general because he received his promotion via a star gifted to him by Kim Jong Un.

However, the authorities stripped Oh of the “star he was gifted” and demoted him from a major general to a senior colonel for his failure to contain the outbreak at his school.

“Since Kim Jong Un told Oh to follow in his father’s footsteps and continue training students for the revolutionary reserves, his rank will probably be reinstated after about three months,” the source said. 

In fact, Oh has not lost his position as head of Mangyongdae Revolutionary School. Meanwhile, however, the authorities fired other school staff from their jobs and discharged them from the military. Individuals who lost their jobs and their status in the military include the logistics bureau director of the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School hospital, along with the head of the hospital, and the battalion commander and political guidance officer from the “battalion” that suffered the most deaths.

The source also said that party authorities gave Oh a severe warning that there would be consequences if he continued to attend various events, especially when weddings, funerals, and ancestral rites ceremonies have been discouraged by the authorities as part of disease control efforts. 

The authorities reportedly criticized him for actively participating in various gatherings and fostering a negative atmosphere when he was supposed to be proactive in setting an example for compliance with the country’s pandemic guidelines. 

“The Mangyongdae Revolutionary School political guidance officer rented out Chongryugwan for two days and had a huge celebration for his child’s wedding. Oh and everyone ranking below him attended the event as well,” the source said. “[Because of this incident], the political guidance officer was demoted from senior colonel to colonel and received a serious warning from the Party.”

*Translated by S & J

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.