In the process of investigating the state of education across the country, North Korean authorities recently discovered a shortage of teaching staff at schools in rural areas and have ordered an investigation, Daily NK has learned. 

“While looking into the state of education nationwide, the education ministry found that a lack of teachers in rural schools within a rural party of ‘the county’ is disrupting the education of children,” a source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Aug. 13. “The ministry informed [the school] during the Saturday study period on Aug. 1 that investigation teams will be dispatched to all provinces.” 

According to the source, the main reasons behind the shortage of teachers are an outdated educational environment and the difficult financial situation faced by households in rural areas.

The quality of education in North Korea’s rural areas is known to be poorer than other areas of the country, a situation that has made it difficult for students in farming regions to go to college. On top of this, parents in rural households do not have the financial resources to pay for university and other costs even if their children were able to gain entrance to university. 

According to the source, North Korean authorities are aware that since parents in rural areas harbor no dreams of sending their children to college, there has been a decline in students from these areas at education and teachers colleges. Teachers are also increasingly reluctant to apply for jobs in such areas. 

rural schools
Children playing at a school in North Hamgyong Province. / Image: Daily NK

The authorities have blamed provincial party committees and education authorities as being partly responsible for the lack of teachers in rural areas. From the central government’s perspective, provincial education departments should have clearly understood there is a shortage of teachers and reported the situation to the central authorities. Meanwhile, provincial party committees failed to provide “party guidance” to provincial education departments, which exacerbated the problem.

The central government believes there are a lot of problems with the provincial party committees, which are tasked with placing graduates [in jobs], and ordered a serious investigation to be carried out,” the source said. “In fact, it came out that graduates from education colleges often bribe party committees to avoid being sent to schools in rural areas.”

North Korean authorities have instructed the investigation team to probe the provincial party officials responsible for teacher placement and hold them accountable if misconduct is found. The team has also been told to look over documents related to teacher placement from the past three years to identify any graduates intentionally trying to avoid rural schools and have them “retrained.” 

In a bid to find additional teachers to resolve the shortage, the authorities have ordered provincial teacher training schools to recruit vocational school graduates with a “high level of loyalty” and “outstanding grades” and cultivate their skills as teachers. 

“The central government has made it clear that each government agency must implement the [new] orders until the issue surrounding the shortage of teachers at rural schools improves,” the source said.

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Kim Yoo Jin is one of Daily NK's freelance journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to