Not far from Pyongyang’s massive Communist monuments, government offices, and propaganda murals — most depicting the country’s two deceased leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il — lies the Orphan Primary School, a pristine, state-run institution that provides some insight into how the country exists the way it is.
The school on its surface is impressive. On a government-led tour on Thursday, a few dozen healthy-looking children were playing soccer, singing songs, and reciting lessons in perfect unity. The school had a well-tuned piano, a well-stocked pantry, even a taxidermy room for animal science lessons. Yet, the school raised red flags for two reasons: one, that most North Koreans cannot afford such luxuries, and the government was clearly only showing us what it wanted us to see. And two, it was a propaganda machine.
One wall poster illustrated a patriotic fable about a humble porcupine overcoming a fearsome tiger — a not-so-subtle allegory for North Korea’s view of its relationship with the U.S. Another showed a cartoon of joyous-looking children next to an inter-continental ballistic missile launch. In the kitchen, a cook told us that Kim Jong Un, the country’s current top leader, once visited the school.
“He encouraged us to care a lot for the children, and asked us to look after the children,” she said.
What that must sound like through the ears of a child. Kim would naturally be worthy of worship. If not for him, would anybody be encouraged to care?
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