North Korea is mobilizing students in Pyongyang to prepare for political events to mark the 110th birthday of late national founder Kim Il Sung on Apr. 15. In fact, the country’s education ministry recently issued an administrative order to schools in Pyongyang to “suspend classes.”
A source in Pyongyang said the education ministry issued the order on Apr. 9 to the administrative departments of universities and general higher-level middle schools (high schools) in Pyongyang. The order suspended classes from Apr. 11, and called on students to focus on practicing for holiday political events from 7 AM to 7 PM.
According to the source, Pyongyang’s adult and student populations have been preparing for events in downtown areas and empty areas of the city since last month. University students and high school students had been going to school in the morning, leaving in the afternoon to practice for the events until 9 PM.
However, the order — issued just a few days before the “Day of the Sun,” as Kim’s birthday is called — suspended classes from Apr. 11 so students could practice the entire “flow” of the events, training for 12 hours a day. This means students are spending all day training for the events, just like adults are.
The source said Pyongyang residents and students are leaving home early to practice, bringing their lunch with them. They train until the evening, and only when they finish can they return home.
That the authorities have suspended classes and fully mobilized students for event training — in contrast to the holiday celebrating late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s birthday on Feb. 16 — shows North Korea’s intention to use them in the finale of this year’s political events to celebrate the 110th birthday of Kim Il Sung.
However, the education ministry reportedly excluded graduate students, undergraduate honor roll students, and students from high schools for the gifted from the preparations for the events.
The ministry said the order “temporarily adjusted class hours” to ensure the events marked the “greatest holiday of the Korean people” with “great political passion.” It also issued another order directing that schools make up the progress missed due to event training after the holiday.
In particular, North Korean authorities — concerned about the risk of COVID-19 spreading as people congregate to prepare for the event — are imploring students mobilized for the training to adhere to quarantine rules and health management through the same “five-minute quarantine education” protocol they follow at school (where teachers explain disease control measures in the five minutes before classes start).
Many Pyongyang residents are criticizing the authorities for mobilizing university and high school students, as if mobilizing the adults all day for training was not bad enough. They also complain that in times like this, “people in the provinces [areas outside of Pyongyang] have it easier.”
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