North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently issued an order to reduce the study time of the North Korean language in kindergartens throughout the country. The move has caused controversy among some parents of the children.

A source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Sept. 13 that “recently, study time devoted to our language at kindergartens throughout the country decreased from three hours to one hour.” The source added that “this is the result of a policy issued in mid-August by our Supreme Leader [Kim] that ‘spending many hours studying our language can have a negative effect on the growth and development of children.’” 

According to the source, the new policy calls for kindergarten curriculums to conduct education sufficient for students to be able to “write only their own names and numbers one to 30.”

Up until now, kindergarten education consisted of studying the childhoods of Kim Il Song and Kim Jong Il, the North Korean language, counting, abacus calculations, and singing and dance.

These five hours of daily classes have now been reduced to three. However, this was done by reducing the time spent studying language daily from three hours to one hour, while leaving the other subjects untouched.

North Korean children / Image: Seokwang

This change throws the “child-friendly” policies of the Kim Jong Un regime into even sharper relief by demonstrating a special interest in fostering and inducing loyalty in young generations toward the party and the state. In fact, the move can be interpreted as an attempt to strengthen regime solidarity through so-called “love-for-the-people politics.”

However, contrary to this aim, dissatisfaction has surfaced among parents who are upset that language was singled out in the cutback and who feel that authorities are preventing children from learning “necessary life skills.”

The source said that “these days people aren’t having many children, so if they have just one child they really want to raise them properly. Because of this, they’re asking ‘isn’t this too much of a cutback on time spent studying our language,’ which is a really basic, fundamental subject.”

Nevertheless, the authorities have instituted supervision and oversight mechanisms to closely monitor adherence to the policy. For example, they have ordered that children do not have to study the North Korean language after school or at home, and they have instructed homeroom teachers to store related exercise books at school. 

The source explained that “inspection teams made up of provincial and city education officials are even going through the bags of children on their way home from school to confirm whether kindergartens are conforming to party policies.”

The source added that “a threatening directive has been circulated among teachers that if inspectors find language exercise books in kindergarteners’ bags on their way home from school, their teachers will be punished with a month or more at a forced labor camp.”

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