North Korean children learn more about Kim Jong-un than English: Study

Elementary schools in North Korea devote 171 hours of their curriculum teaching students about leader Kim Jong-un's childhood, found a state-run institute.

According to a report by the Korea Institute for Curriculum Evaluation on the 2013 revision of the North Korean curriculum, state criteria for the elementary schools stipulates that each student learn about the childhoods of Kim, his father Kim Jong-il, his grandfather Kim Il-sung and grandmother Kim Jong-suk for 684 hours during the five-year curriculum.

Lessons about former leaders Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung are 171 hours each, while those for Kim Jung-suk come to 34 hours.

Only classes for Korean language and math are given more time than lessons about Kim Jong-un, at 1,197 and 821 hours respectively.

An educational doctrine for the North revealed earlier by local media shows that its goal of education is for "students to acquire the concept of revolution and endless loyalty toward (North Korea's ruling) party and the supreme leader (Kim Il-sung), while constituting the spirit to safeguard dear leader Kim Jong-un."

As with other communist countries, North Korea's founding principal is based on the revolution of the working class. But the hermit kingdom claims that the public must receive guidance from its supreme leaders -- the Kim family -- and the ruling party for the "ultimate victory," justifying its one-man rule.

The report by KICE shows that such propaganda takes place at the earlier stages of the North's 12-year mandatory education, starting at the second of two years of kindergarten and ending with three years in high school.

Subjects related to the Kim family continue into later stages of education, with high schoolers learning about Kim Jong-un's "history of revolution" for 81 hours. This is significantly less that the time devoted to studying Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-un, probably due to the current leader's young age. Kim Jong-un's grandmother is taught for 42 hours.

"Subjects unrelated to Kim Jong-un have been added (in the 2013 curriculum) as a special subject, in a bid to strengthen his leadership. And the four subjects (of the Kim family members) are being taught consistently throughout elementary, middle and high school," Kim Jin-sook of KICE said in the report.

Kim also added that the new curriculum shows that North Korean education is changing in accordance to global standards, such as by emphasizing English and information technology. English classes were taught more frequently than Korean language at the high school level.

"Despite the limitations (of education) as an ideological tool, we can see that new 'educational experiments' are being tried in North Korea," said Kim.

"But the negative aspect is that North Korea's political system and its policies are being reflected in education to promote and sustain the regime, and people's perceptions are being affected by it. ... The aftermath of the wayward education -- as a result of the politicizing of education -- is something that has to be overcome as we prepare for the future unification (of Korea)," he added.