Many of the practices common to North Korea are shrouded in secrecy. What we learn comes from a combination of defectors who flee the country and a select few tourists and journalists who are permitted to enter the country.
One of the most controversial practices — besides, of course, nuclear weapons development — is the way North Korea starts indoctrinating children from such a young age. It’s difficult to imagine just how harmful this can be to young minds since America is so different from North Korea. But the reality is that North Korean children aren’t just suffering from a lack of resources — they’re being brainwashed by North Korean leadership to hate the United States and blame our country for all of their problems.
Read on to find out more about how the most vulnerable members of society are being ruthlessly manipulated in North Korea.
1. There’s a museum to show kids how terrible Americans are
In the farming town of Sinchon just south of Pyongyang, there’s a museum dedicated to the history of North Korean and United States relations. But don’t think for a minute that any of the exhibits offer an unbiased account of what happened.
Schoolchildren go on field trips to the Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities to glimpse remnants from the Korean War of 1950-53. Everything in the museum portrays Americans as “scheming missionaries, marauding soldiers, and masters of torture.” Tour guides insist that South Korea and the United States teamed up to invade their peaceful country without provocation. The reality is the exact opposite of that.
Next: Young kids are encouraged to attack U.S. citizens.
2. Kindergarteners learn to attack U.S. citizens
North Korean students are taught to hate two specific groups of people: Japanese citizens and Americans. In one popular schoolyard game, school leaders pull out a dummy designed to look like an American and encourage kids to beat him with batons or throw stones at him.
Next: Young kids see violent acts all the time.
3. The children become desensitized to violence
Many children face atrocities daily as they live in work camps and perform forced labor as atonement for crimes their parents committed. But even the kids who aren’t stuck in prison, such as children of well-to-do North Korean families, are forced to view public executions. The more they see horrible things, the more their brains become used to it and begin to view the practices as normal.
Next: There are no inspirational posters in classrooms — just violent ones.
4. Anti-American posters line kindergarten classrooms
One poster has a photo of an American with a noose around his neck and says, ‘Let’s wipe out the U.S. imperialists.’ Another features a bloodied U.S. soldier being attacked by children wielding bayonets and rifles.
Next: Every person worships Kim Jong Un.
5. They see Kim Jong Un as a divine being
In North Korea, the dictator isn’t just seen as the leader of the country — he’s considered a supernatural being worthy of worship and praise. And since Kim Jong Un hates America, the people he rules are expected to feel the same way. Even small children are taught to mimic the ideas of the Dear Leader, including fervent sentiments of Anti-Americanism.
Next: There’s no such thing as “hearing the other side.”
6. Media is censored
You can flip on a television in North Korea, but don’t expect to see the latest episode of This is Us.
All television sets and radios in North Korea are tuned in to state-run channels that only play approved content, and the airwaves are filled with anti-American propaganda. There is no internet (besides the one run by country officials) and no access to the modern world beyond North Korean borders. Getting caught with a foreign DVD is an offense that could land you and your entire family in a nightmarish labor camp.
Children have no way of separating fact from fiction, and with no free speech or freedom of the press, they grow up believing exactly what they’re told.
Next: Kids are taught that their leader is a good person.
7. Kim Jong Un is portrayed as benevolent
It’s easy to find flaw with Kim Jong Un here in America — proof of his crimes against humanity are numerous and horrific. But in North Korea, it’s a totally different situation.
Schoolchildren are taught that their Dear Leader is looking out for them and even sacrificing his own comfort to ensure their happiness. One defector who refused to identify herself put it this way: “The milk would arrive [in the classroom] and we would go up one by one to fill our cups. The teachers would say: ‘Do you know where the milk came from? It came from the Dear Leader. Because of his love and consideration, we are drinking milk today.’”
Other adults recall being told about how hard the supreme leader works to provide for his citizens, and that he sleeps in his car and eats nothing but rice balls. Obviously, these are all blatant lies.
Next: Printed materials are just propaganda.
8. The books are filled with propaganda
Children’s books are filled with anti-American sentiments, which are often hidden behind thinly veiled allegories. For example, one book tells the tale of a bully rooster who is ultimately defeated by a clever, virtuous butterfly. The implication is that the rooster represents the U.S. and the butterfly is North Korea.
Next: History lessons are nothing but lies.
9. Teachers are forced to rewrite history
The teachers in North Korea instruct students in something known as “revolutionary history” which focuses solely on the Kims. Music, books, and art are all focused on current and former North Korean leaders, presenting them in a favorable light.
Meanwhile, the history lessons cast Americans and Japanese people as mortal enemies who deserve awful things to happen to them.
Next: Children learn to use anything as weapons.
10. Everyday objects become weapons
North Korean literature expert Tatiana Gabroussenko explains that children are indoctrinated slowly. “In the children’s version [of a story], a child will be fighting Americans by throwing pepper in their eyes and making them sneeze and cough,” Gabroussenko says. The adult version of the same tale features real weapons in place of condiments.
Next: There’s no escape from anti-U.S. sentiments.
11. The propaganda is literally everywhere
Kids aren’t just inundated with anti-American sentiments at school and at home — they even see it on the way to school via billboards. It’s impossible to overestimate just how much control the North Korean government has over the things that people, including children, see and hear constantly. And they make sure all of it makes America look like the bad guys.
Next: Kids are forced to join an America-haters club.
12. Young kids join the Children’s Union
All young people are obligated to join an organization called the Children’s Union once they turn 7. After a year, they must begin self-criticisms, where they confess to all the ways they’re failing to follow the “Ten Principles” set forth by North Korean leadership. Part of those ideals include studying the thoughts and opinions of former North Korean leader Kim Il Sung, which include plenty of Anti-American rhetoric.
Next: Older kids get even more serious about hating America.
13. Older kids have their own America-hating group
Once children turn 14, they join the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League. This organization worships the Kim family. High school students take intensive classes on the history of Kim Jong Un along with additional hours of coursework on Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, former leaders of North Korea.
Next: It’s not just teachers who indoctrinate — the parents do it too.
14. Even parents teach their kids to hate America
Defectors from North Korea admit to believing that even the walls of their homes were listening. Parents never spoke ill of the Dear Leader, even in the privacy of their homes, for fear that someone might overhear. Neighbors were often rewarded for tattling on each other.
Plus, the parents of today’s children were once children themselves and were exposed to the same anti-American propaganda in school. Some North Korean adult citizens may doubt Kim’s all-encompassing power and hateful opinions, but others have fallen for it and teach their children using the same principles.
Next: North Korean kids grow into adults who feel the same way.
15. North Korea molds children into conformist adults
Since children aren’t encouraged to have their own opinions or develop critical thinking skills, they grow up to become adults who know better than to question the system. This infantilizes citizens and allows the government to fill their heads with whatever they please, including hatred towards America and other Western countries.
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