A cadre in North Hamgyong Province was reportedly sacked when a Central Committee inspection in mid-December revealed that he had used his money and power to get his child into the province’s Middle School No. 1, a feeder school for the nation’s elite universities.

A source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Thursday that the Central Committee conducted an inspection on Middle School No. 1 in North Hamgyong Province in mid-December. He said a local cadre was dismissed “on the charge of obstructing the cultivation of human resources” when his actions came to light during the inspection.

According to the source, officials sent from Pyongyang in early December conducted tests to ascertain the level of students at the top middle schools of each province. When many students at North Hamgyong Province’s Middle School No. 1 scored low on the test, the authorities carried out an inspection of the school.

Central Committee officials investigated several students who scored far lower than other students. Declaring that the presence of such untalented students at the province’s top middle school to be a problem in and of itself, the officials were in the process of calling the school to account when they discovered someone had used their power to get their child into the school.

The matter was reported straight away to the Central Committee and an inspection was launched.

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

“In fact, the inspection revealed that the head of the economic inspection department of the Ministry of Social Security’s Onsong County branch had used his power and money to get his son into Middle School No. 1, and the leadership sacked him on Dec. 23, holding him responsible for obstructing the party’s policy for cultivating human resources,” the source told Daily NK. 

The inspection also revealed that the province’s Middle School No. 1 had been admitting a few students every year through a “special” admissions system. 

According to the source, the school said it did this so it could buy necessary supplies for the school. But with authorities refusing to accept the explanation, locals are saying the school employees involved will face punishment, too.

“Recently, cadres and residents with money have been showing interest in Middle School No. 1,” said the source. “It’s a stepping stone for getting into a good university, and people believe it’s the best way to get your kid’s military duty shortened from 10 years to three.”

In fact, if you graduate from an ordinary middle school in North Korea, you must serve 10 years in the military, but if you graduate from a provincial Middle School No. 1, you only have to serve about three years after graduating from university.

That is to say, since students of a provincial Middle School No. 1 can “secure the foundation” to become a cadre by graduating university and doing their military service while ordinary students are still doing their 10-year stints in the armed forces, households with money and power are trying to get their children into the elite schools.

“This year, two or three talented students will be selected through tests in each county or city district, and then they’ll come together to take the entry exam for Middle School No. 1,” said the source. “This means the competition will be fiercer than ever.”

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.