New propaganda distributed to high schools in North Korea
High school students have been asked to spy on one another during a new round of propaganda lectures early September.
The North Korean state began a round of propaganda lectures in schools in each country province, encouraging high school students to be constantly prepared for all circumstances, and to charge forward with a revolutionary state of mind.
A New Focus correspondent in North Korea reported, “Starting from the 1st of September, as a new school term commenced, the Education Department began the provision of information for propaganda lectures, focusing on the penetration of new Party commands into the people.”
Of course, propaganda provision isn’t new in North Korea. “These kinds of things happen on a regular basis, usually to mark national events or public holidays,” the correspondent stated.
So what’s different about the propaganda this time? “There’s a special emphasis on revolutionary readiness,” he explained. “Rumours are circulating among citizens in border towns, including school students, about the recent defection of the restaurant workers in China and other highly-ranked officials working overseas. State Security and Safety Department officials rounded up students in high schools and told them that foreign secret services are organising missions to kidnap North Korean citizens in China and overseas. They said that only those whose revolutionary devotion to the Party is weak will succumb to the temptation of the enemy, so people must become more steadfast and cautious.”
When asked whether the high school lecture sessions were effective, the correspondent replied, “The students already know what the State Security Department authorities mean when they say to assume a revolutionary mind – to spy on one another. But they laughed it off, because no idiot would ever tell their friends their plans to defect.”
Kim, a refugee from Hongwon in South Hamkyung Province, said, “On any important day in North Korea, lectures are organised in areas of each province that explain the Party’s commands. On top of that, there are self-criticism sessions every Saturday. The real point of these sessions is to find and survey anti-revolutionaries among those who have shown devotion to the Kim family by criticising oneself, a sort of filtering process. In these sessions, each person has to choose one other – an outsider, a neighbour, anyone – and criticise them, also.
“These mutual criticism sessions are absolutely mandatory. People are busy trying to discover one another’s flaws. Depending on the person’s political disposition, the flaws vary. If a flaw might actually turn out to be something more insidious, the listening official might make an exclusive report to the Party. Depending on the result, the citizen who reported the flaw in the first instance would be praised for their devotion to the Party.”
Another refugee from Hyesan, Choi, said, “Mutual spying in North Korea has two types. The first type is generally known, where the state asks citizens to spy on one another and to report any suspicious activity. The other type is a lot more focused. A State Security official chooses a target to spy on and approaches the people around them, people that the target can trust. Those people are given tasks to complete, and have to report back to the official regularly.
“This is the most frightening kind of mutual spying, because the person being spied on already has their fate sealed. People say these days that you should never trust anyone – not your neighbours, your lover, your family or even yourself. Brainwashing tactics begin from an early age. The government even instructs kindergarten teachers to tell young children to spy on their own parents.
“And they do. Young children do as they are told, and report back to the teacher on so-called suspicious or anti-revolutionary activity within their own homes. And if the teacher believes that it is serious enough, they will tell a Party secretary. Parents are aware of these types of situations, so families hoping to defect usually discuss their plans long after the children have fallen asleep.”
Having defected in similar circumstances, Choi concluded, “I was just a child who didn’t know better at the time. Now that I think back on it, I realise that the North Korean government was making spies out of young children who didn’t know any better. It really makes me angry.”
Reporting by Lee, Ki-cheol.
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