university students in North Korea

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On February 22, The Jakarta Post wrote an article regarding job vacancy in an all-male university called PUST (Pyongyang University of Science and Technology), one of the best universities in North Korea. A year ago, I wrote an article about an undercover journalist named Suki Kim, who surreptitiously became an English teacher there (read: here). Students going to PUST are the ones who come from wealthy, noble family only. How is the life of a student in North Korea, specifically in PUST? I’ll use bullet points as follow:

  • Brainwashed by propaganda, these students think kimchi is eaten everywhere around the world as a primary food, and the Korean language is spoken by everyone in this world.
  • Although the university is called Pyongyang University of ‘Science and Technology’, no one really understands about the use of the internet (Google), or basic technology such as opening up a Microsoft Word. Everything just seems archaic there, and it’s a shame to see Science & Technology students operate Google with such difficulty. Yet, that’s the fact there in North Korea. The government only allows the use of intranet, which can only connect students to lacking information, such as Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung’s juche studies, within the university building.
  • Other university students from all over the country have to do hard-labor jobs, building construction sites and schools for the importance of North Korea’s government. PUST students do not necessarily do that though, because each of the students comes from a very privileged high caste family.
  • There, the students have to bow down to North Korea’s leaders — Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un. Every movies, songs, or monuments, even books, discusses only the “achievements” of these “great” leaders. The people, especially university students, are extremely brainwashed to the point that they refer these ruthless leaders as their gods.
  •  These university students are so brainwashed to the point that they believe a lie that celebrates the victory of North Korea over South Korea. Back in 1953, both Koreas signed an agreement to stop fighting. The victory is based over nothing, since there was no winner or loser. This is one of the many lies that North Korean adolescents believe, which eventually lead them to lie themselves towards their teachers or peers.
  • Friendships are even controlled by the government. These fake friendships are often called as “having a buddy”. For example, A, who is smart, has to be paired with his buddy B, who lacks intellectually, to help B gain good scores in school. This kind of pairing seems like an assigned friendship,
  • Every day, the students have to sing the same patriotic song for the “Great Leader” — at that time it was Kim Jong Il, now it’s Kim Jong Un. North Korean songs are always intended for one of these 3 generations of leaders. Ironically, if students change the word Jesus from any Christian songs with any of these North Korean leaders, the meaning of the songs won’t change much. North Koreans really do treat their leaders as gods.
  • Even though Pyongyang is the capital city of North Korea (meaning: it’s better than any other cities there), it lacks housing electricities. No sound of life is heard during the day or at night. Dead or decaying bodies are all over the streets, while there is no evidence of animals or children running around happily. There are children, but sometimes they only beg for food.
  • Beautiful young women are picked to pleasure the leaders, Kim Jong Il and his son Kim Jong Un. They are not called as prostitutes, instead, they are called as “Pleasure Brigade” (gippumjo).
  • Here, the students lie easily and do some kind of a mind-game for survival.
  • There is no religious freedom for students, and everyone, in North Korea. The regime/government punishes religious people with petty arrests and even executions.
  • Election Day is not even a democratic experience — students, and people of North Korea, are fooled into believing that they undergo a fair voting for choosing government’s members. However, the regime of North Korea usually puts up fake election booths  and probably fake line-up of people. Everybody knows that nepotism in North Korean, even South Korean, government is as thick as blood.
  • No students is ever required to write a CV, a letter to get a job. Job is given individually by the government. Students who come from noble family are always given the highest-ranking jobs, despite their intelligence or qualifications. That’s why, nepotism is as thick as blood there.
  • Except having been able to smuggle from the black market, these students never watch famous international movies like Harry Potter. The TV programs there contain no commercials or international channels beside China’s. An exclusive 25-minute program covers Kim Jong Il. Another music program follows, with a tribute to the Great Leader, Kim Jong Il. Even dramas are not allowed there, beside those from North Korea, China, or Russia. Students have to watch an old Chinese drama based on 1937 Russian novel. North Korea has its one and only notorious drama, which is called The Flower Girl from the year 1972 — the actress became one of Kim Jong Il’s mistresses.
  • Even ramen is a scarce thing for university students in North Korea; they have to buy a pack of Samyang ramen in the black market. Although PUST is a high-class university, it does not offer good food for its students. They have to eat bland kimchi and soup, meat is a rarity. When there’s meat available, it’s dog meat.
  • These students are extremely brainwashed to hate South Korea and the United States. They become delusional and think that America is the one who has the most dangerous nuclear weapon. People from all over the world obviously know that it’s not the case; North Korea is the one who has the primary key to nuclear weapons.

There is no freedom in North Korea, for its university students and the citizens. Every single day seems like the repetition of the day before. Time seems to past differently when you are shut off from the rest of the world, this sameness has a way of draining your soul. Some teachers coming from outside North Korea assume PUST as a place worse than Gitmo, a prison camp for Al-Qaeda fighters and Islamic radicals. People eat much better in Gitmo, than the students in Pyongyang University. Even the students from a prestigious university like PUST suffer, what about the rest of the people there? Most of the unfortunate ones live in poverty and famine.

Students watching Harry Potter – The Prisoner of Azkaban – through a small projector for the first time.
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