North Korean authorities have extended school closures in the country until Apr. 15, Daily NK has learned. 

On Feb. 20, North Korean authorities issued an ordering delaying the start of school by one month. The new order from the Ministry of Education effectively adds another month to the school closures. 

“On Monday, the North Korean Ministry of Education issued an urgent order directing all schools to delay the start of the new semester until Apr. 15,” a Daily NK source reported on Tuesday. 

According to sources in the country, the Ministry of Education cited “[social] distancing” as the reason for its new order. 

The ministry suggested that “banning physical contact between individuals is the best way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” one of the sources said. 

PREPARING FOR KIM IL SUNG’S BIRTHDAY

Apr. 15 is Kim Il Sung’s birthday, a national holiday, and the idea behind the school closure order is that North Koreans “fight off the epidemic” before this “sacred day” and celebrate as a nation,” sources told Daily NK.

Schools are closed for two days to celebrate Kim Il Sung’s birthday, “so the start of the school semester will probably be Apr. 17,” one source said, adding, “The Ministry of Education is aware of this, but they decided to designate Apr. 15 as the official end date of the school break anyway, as a way of increasing collective solidarity.”

The students themselves were ordered to spend their extra vacation days reviewing previously learned material. They were also ordered to refrain from venturing outside. 

Students at elite universities in Pyongyang were reportedly ordered to review their coursework at home if they were from Pyongyang, or in their dormitory rooms if they were from outside the city.

North Koreans have reacted with bewilderment at this unprecedented situation, in which the start of the semester was delayed not just once, but twice.

“There are a lot of people asking why the start of the semester was delayed twice if there really were no confirmed COVID-19 cases in North Korea, like they were saying in the media,” one source told Daily NK. “Some people have started to recognize that this virus isn’t something that’s happening in other countries, but that North Koreans may be at risk as well.”

Noting that this is the first time in the history of the country that school open dates have postponed twice, another source told Daily NK that “This shows how serious the COVID-19 issue is nationwide.”

LIVELIHOOD CONCERNS

Some North Koreans, meanwhile, have expressed concerns about how the extended closure of schools will impact their livelihoods. 

Many have reportedly interpreted the new school closure order to mean they are forbidden from stepping foot over the Sino-North Korean border until schools reopen in April. 

Smuggling and trade activities provide income for many people located in the border region.

After North Korea announced school closures on Feb. 20 last month, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) broadcasted the news a week later. 

Daily NK reported on the school closures on Feb. 21, a day after the announcement was made. 

*Translated by Violet Kim

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

Read in Korean

SHARE
Avatar
Jeong Tae Joo is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. He focuses on North Korean military matters. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.