Apparently, learning to hate Americans and “U.S. imperialists” begins for North Koreans in their kindergarten classroom. A revealing article from the Associated Press yesterday, highlights the shocking anti-U.S. propaganda one can find in a typical Pyongyang classroom. Here’s a brief sample of some of the unbelievably violent and terrifying images that scatter the halls of these children’s schools:
A framed poster on the wall of a kindergarten classroom shows bright-eyed children brandishing rifles and bayonets as they attack a hapless American soldier, his face bandaged and blood spurting from his mouth. “We love playing military games knocking down the American bastards,” reads the slogan printed across the top. Another poster depicts an American with a noose around his neck. “Let’s wipe out the US imperialists,” it instructs … US soldiers are depicted as cruel, ghoulish barbarians with big noses and fiendish eyes. Teeth bared, they brand prisoners with hot irons, set wild dogs on women and wrench out a girl’s teeth with pliers. One drawing shows an American soldier crushing a girl with his boot, blood pouring from her mouth, her eyes wild with fear and pain.
Unfortunately, while this may come as a shock to some, such overtly anti-U.S. sentiment has been previously catalogued by North Korean experts. Victor Cha, the former director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council, notes (in The Impossible State) how North Korean schoolchildren learn how to conjugate verbs “by reciting ‘We killed Americans,’ ‘We are killing Americans,’ [and] ‘We will kill Americans,'” and develop basic math skills by learning how to “subtract or divide the number of dead American soldiers to get the solution.”
This systematic hatred is typically reserved for the two worst enemies in the eyes of the DPRK: the U.S. and Japan. One poster on the wall reads, “The American imperialists and Japanese militarism are the sworn enemies of the North Korean people.” These two countries earned this antagonism through past military actions directed against the North, for instance Japan’s occupation of Korea and the U.S.’s involvement in the Korean war.
These feelings have been exacerbated by the warped official history of the DPRK. For instance, a teacher interviewed by members of the AP claimed that they begin by teaching the students how the “American imperialists started the [Korean] war.” (In reality, the war began with an invasion by North Korean leader and founder, Kim Il-sung.) Much of the emphasis in North Korean schools is on the brutal past actions of the U.S. and Japan. As North Korean analyst and author B.R. Myers observed:
The main theme of anti-American propaganda is not ‘We must be ready for an attack’ but ‘We must be ready for revenge … People are being whipped up to hate the United States on the basis of past actions.
While the focus may be on “revenge” for past actions, North Korea has also continually underscored the imminent threat the U.S. military poses, constantly referring to the U.S. as a threat to the “stability” and “sovereignty” of the North. Many of the propaganda images continually display U.S. soldiers with nuclear symbols on their helmets, to remind North Koreans of the threat the U.S. poses to their safety.
Recently (ever since South Korea officially ended unconditional aid to the North), the ROK leadership has come under fire as well. On the KCNA – the official news organization of the DPRK – website, one can find constant streaming messages urging North Koreans to “Cut Off the Windpipes of the [President of South Korea] Lee Myung Bak-Led Swarm of Rats!” Traditionally the South has been portrayed in North Korea as a land of U.S. “puppets”; a dreadful country filled with horrible people. (While in reality South Korea’s economy is booming, with its nominal GDP ranked 15th in the world.)
While the “histories” and caricatures of the U.S., Japan, and South Korea clearly contradict reality, the anti-West sentiments these instruments conjure in the people of North Korea are all too real.