Universities in North Korea’s capital of Pyongyang reopened on Monday, forcing the quick return of students who had gone home to areas outside of the city, Daily NK has learned.

According to a Daily NK source in the country yesterday, North Korean authorities had originally planned to keep schools on “vacation” until the end of August. The Propaganda and Agitation Department, however, recently ordered universities in Pyongyang to prepare for an Oct. 10 event commemorating the founding of the ruling communist party from Sept. 4.

The education ministry ultimately decided to reopen the universities earlier than expected so that students could continue their studies until early September before being mobilized to prepare for the event, the source said.

Students who had gone back to their hometowns arrived back in Pyongyang on special trains from Aug. 1 to Aug. 3. The students were tested for COVID-19 from Aug. 3 to Aug. 8, and classes began from Aug. 10 after a “day of rest” on Aug. 9.

The COVID-19 tests found that none of the students were infected by the disease. Around 30 students, however, were found to have symptoms of tuberculosis and they have been quarantined while waiting for further medical tests to be done.

Universities in the city are reportedly requiring students to wear masks during lectures. The students must undergo temperature checks at university front gates and the entrances to lecture halls. Universities are also required to report any students who have fevers to disease control authorities.

STUDENTS COMPLAIN OF FATIGUE

Returning students are reportedly complaining of considerable “fatigue” because of the earlier-than-expected reopening of the schools.

“The education ministry has pressed the universities to speed up the pace of the curriculum,” the source said. “In the past, students took three lectures of 90 minutes each until 1 PM and then the afternoon hours would be spent reviewing class material, engaging in self-study, conducting practical training, and completing homework. Now, lectures are held from 8 AM to 6 PM.”

According to the source, students are under a lot of pressure because they have to complete homework given out by teachers through the night “without sleep.” Many students are steeling themselves for a tough September, when they will have to start practicing for the Oct. 10 event.

The source said that many students want to get out of practicing for the event by pretending to be sick or bribing university party officials. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s presence at the Oct. 10 event will likely make the event practice sessions more energy-consuming than normal, according to the source.

Students who attend universities outside of Pyongyang are still waiting for updates on when their schools will reopen and are spending their time working or doing school work at home.

These universities are officially set to reopen on Sept. 1, but because the situation is still considered “fluid,” many expect the central government to release a statement or order about reopening schools the last week of this month, the source said.

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

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Ha Yoon Ah is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.