North Korea is one of the most secretive countries in the world and yet somehow, it shows up in the news every other day. Part of the reason why this happens is because of the oppressive regime that is the North Korean government which not only threatens to nuke everyone if provoked but also continues to put its people through a never-ending dictatorship.
For a very long time it was impossible to tell what actually went on inside the country but over the years, North Korea has opened its doors for reporters who have managed to capture a glimpse of how life there is. For those of us living in developed countries, we can never imagine children being forced to work or taught to hate every other country but their own. Sadly, that is the life of more than 5.3 million children currently living in North Korea who don’t even have access to most of the basic human rights such as quality education and healthcare. Among the many luxuries that we have access to in developed countries, it can become quite easy to forget the hardships that these children have to face from a very young age which is why we’ve put together this list of 15 things North Korean kids have to go through that American kids will never understand.
15. They Are Pushed Into Forced Labor
There is a huge double standard to how things function in North Korea. There are the elites which are a very small group of people living in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, who get to enjoy all the luxuries that people in the western world do. Then there is the majority of the North Korean population outside the capital who live in poverty.
The children who belong to these families outside Pyongyang are forced to work from an early age on farms where they have to work more than 14 hours a day. The biggest reason behind this is that it helps the country to maintain its economic output which has almost never been in a good condition since 1990.
14. Those Who Don’t Comply Are Sent To Concentration Camps
The idea of concentration camps is not new, however, getting to hear about the use of these in the 21st century is quite surprising. Still, if there is one place where you can find concentration camps then it is definitely North Korea.
Proper concentration camps have been constructed for children who refuse to comply with the demands of forced labor. Yes, you read that correctly. Children are sent to these camps as punishment where they must face a number of hardships. For the kids living in America, it’s not even possible for them to imagine some of the things that North Korean children continue to endure on a daily basis.
13. Repurposed Dump Trucks Are Used As School Buses
For a nation to succeed, it is very important for its citizens to be educated because only then can they effectively contribute towards the success of their country. This is another criterion where North Korea falls quite short. While schools do exist, their conditions are quite deplorable.
On one hand, we have the land of the free where kids wake up every morning and are dropped off to their schools by their parents or picked up in nice school buses. North Korean kids, on the other hand, have to either walk through dangerous terrain or ride in buses that are basically repurposed dump trucks.
12. Children Are Raised To Worship The Leaders
The good thing about democracy is that people are free to express their opinion and it’s not really necessary for you to agree or disagree with them, regardless of how crazy they might be. That is exactly why we get to have different political parties and a choice to go with whichever one that we want to.
Things in North Korea aren’t that simple. The leaders are essentially worshipped to the point where countless myths have been associated with them. You simply cannot disassociate yourself from them and families have to take their children to the monuments of these people to honor them. North Korean children are made to hold them up as their idols whether they like it or not.
11. They Are Taught To Hate Americans At A Young Age
Propaganda has been one of the biggest weapons in the hands of the North Korean government which they’ve ensured to deploy everywhere that they can. The western culture is always portrayed to be toxic and weak and this concept works across the whole country.
The hate for western culture, more specifically the American culture is ingrained into the minds of North Korean children from a very early age. They are taught a number of anti-American messages but the indoctrination doesn’t end here. The children are even provided with toy rifles which they can use to shoot at images of cartoon soldiers.
10. Schools Often Have Unsanitary Conditions
Children are only able to learn effectively if they’re provided with the best learning environment. The process of education is severely hindered if the conditions around the children are not up to par.
The problem with most schools in North Korea is that they’re located in some of the worst parts of the country. A prime example of this would be a kindergarten school which is located in the middle of a textile mill. Not only are the conditions there unsanitary but also quite hazardous for the young North Korean children. The one exception to this rule are the children belonging to rich North Korean families who get to study at the Mangyongdae Children’s Palace, one of the only schools in the country to be built according to the modern standards of education.
9. They Don’t Have Any Freedom Of Movement
For most of us, moving around when growing up wasn’t a huge deal. Many of us had to move from one state to another for a whole bunch of different reasons, however, one thing that you never had to do was take permission from the government.
This whole concept works quite in the opposite way inside North Korea. While it is common knowledge that North Korean people aren’t allowed to leave the country, something that a lot of people might not know is that they’re also restricted in moving inside their own country. Unless you live in Pyongyang, it is impossible to gain permission to move from one part of the country to another.
8. They Have To Face Chronic Food Shortages
One of the biggest indications of a failing nation is when the government is unable to provide its people with proper food. North Korea is the prime example of that.
While other countries across the world rely on trade and sound agricultural policies to fulfill their needs, North Korea is unable to do the same simply because of its current status in the world. There is simply no trade and the fact that most of their policies relating to agriculture have failed miserably doesn’t help either. The people of North Korea have had to face severe food shortages since the 1990s. This is a struggle that most American kids simply cannot understand.
7. Access To Medicine Is A Rarity
Often times we don’t even pay attention to some of the basic luxuries that we get to enjoy by living in a free country. One of these is access to health services. While universal health care has been the topic of much debate in the United States for quite some time now, it’s nothing compared to the fact that a majority of North Korean children don’t have access to any medicine or hospitals.
Once again, only a select few who hold some of the highest positions in the North Korean society get to enjoy these facilities. The rest of the population continues to be affected by diseases that could normally be cured without much effort if proper medicine was provided.
6. They Too Become Victims Of Collective Punishment
This is a concept that most people living in developed countries are not even aware of. Almost everyone holds the belief that a person is responsible for their own actions and if they end up doing something wrong, only they are to be punished.
The North Korean authorities think otherwise, however, as they have a firm belief in something called collective punishments. If someone is responsible for a crime, the punishment will not only be handed out to the person but three generations of their family as well. This includes women, children and old people. The objective behind this is to remove the entire family unit from the society to set an example and to ensure that such a thing never happens again.
5. Those Born To Refugee Mothers Are Left Stateless
In North Korea, it is illegal to leave the country without permission. Yet, many people try to do so each year to escape the oppression that they have to face in the country. Most of these end up crossing the border into either South Korea or China.
Those who enter China are not considered refugees which means that they are forcibly removed from the country and sent back to North Korea each year. Any children that are born to the refugee North Korean women are considered stateless since neither North Korea nor China is willing to accept them. This also means that don’t get to have any of the basic rights for children.
4. They’re Not Allowed To Watch Western Movies
Most American kids can’t even bear the thought of having to watch the same movie seven times in a row. They also get to enjoy the freedom of getting to choose which movies to watch regardless of the fact about where it was made.
Despite being a totally insane concept, most people still won’t be surprised to read that you can be sentenced to death for watching an American or South Korean movie. The North Korean government knows that if their people started watching western films, they’d know about the freedom that people from those countries get to enjoy and how they live. The government can’t let that happen which is why there is such a strict ban on western movies.
3. There Are No Places For Fun
For kids living in the United States, there are so many things that they can do and so many places they can go to with their friends to have fun. From bowling alleys to theme parks and arcade arenas, there is so much to do.
The North Korean children, on the other hand, don’t get to experience any of that. First off, most of them are sent to work on farms as forced labor during the time that they’re supposed to be free and second, the western idea of fun is something that the North Korean government absolutely hates. Only one bowling alley exists in the entire city of Pyongyang and the same goes for roller skating. Kids aren’t even allowed to skate in the streets and face punishment if caught doing so.
2. There Are Power Outages For Days
North Korea’s problems aren’t just limited to bad agricultural policies. While the former has resulted in a food shortage, it has also affected many other industrial sectors of the country.
One of these is the production of electricity. Once again, for a country to thrive, trade is important and without it, a country can suffer greatly. Shortage of electricity means that there are power outages for days on end which means that every device operated by electricity is basically rendered useless. Imagine buying a new console, something that you already can’t do in North Korea, and then not being able to play it for days simply because there is no electricity. That is something that a lot of North Korean kids must go through on a daily basis.
1. They Are Forced To Participate In Parades
Going to parades and getting to see the different floats is always a joy. One of the most well-known parades in the United States is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade which takes place in New York City each year. Still, you always have a choice to visit it or participate in it.
Parades hold an entirely different meaning in North Korea. In fact, it is so crazy that many people have to participate in almost three rallies or parades each year. Participation is mandatory and those who don’t participate are sent to concentration camps and punished. Participants are told to rehearse regardless of the rough weather that comes during the peak months of summer or winter.
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