kim il sung university college entrance exams schools students again start
Students walking to classes at Kim Il Sung University (Kim Il Sung University website)

As part of efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, North Korean authorities recently ordered universities nationwide to prevent students living in dormitories from traveling during summer vacation.

According to a source in South Pyongan Province on Monday, the order was recently issued by the State Emergency Anti-Epidemic Command along with the country’s education ministry. It emphasized that universities should ensure their students participate in on-campus activities rather than allow them to return home or travel to other places during summer break. 

The order was sent in advance of the summer vacation out of concern that the students could become infected by or even spread the coronavirus during their travels home or other places, the source said. 

In particular, the order instructed universities to prevent students living in dormitories from heading back to their hometowns during the summer vacation. It stressed that because the rice-planting season is over, universities should gather students in their dorms so they can more easily follow instructions from their schools. 

Interestingly, the authorities presented a plan to have students in dorms continue their education during the summer vacation through remote learning programs or lecture material on USBs. 

The order also called on universities to do everything they can to stop community infections from occurring. Specifically, the schools were instructed to establish strict emergency quarantine systems on their campuses and to separate students who live in dormitories and students who commute to school from home.

University officials, for their part, are complaining that the order fails to reflect reality and makes no sense. In their view, while the order instructs schools to confine students in their dormitories to study during the summer, students still have to go out and buy their own food because the schools have no money to supply them with any. 

University officials complain that keeping dormitories running smoothly on a daily basis – such as keeping drinking water clean and disinfecting showers, bathrooms and other shared facilities – is not easy. They also worry that their schools will have to take responsibility for quarantining dorm-based students if any of them come down with COVID-19. 

“Dorm students and their families are distressed after hearing about the order,” said the source. “The government is failing to take active measures to deal with the [current] outbreak, so people worry that if an outbreak were to occur while students are in groups, the universities may not be able to respond properly.”

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler.

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to