Tech Stunning photos reveal what childhood in North Korea is really like

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Poverty and propaganda run amok in North Korea, the world's most secretive country, making childhood far from typical.

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(KCNA/Reuters)
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Childhood is a precious time in human life, so it can be jarring to see kids working in fields or blindly supporting dictators.

But if you're one of the 5.3 million children under the age of 14 in North Korea, that's the reality of growing up.

Kids learn to love the country's grisly history, from its founder, Kim Il Sung, all the way to its present ruler, Kim Jong Un. They may learn popular art forms like music and illustration, but it's often in the pursuit of promoting the country's political will.

Here's what it's like to grow up in the most secretive country on Earth.

From an early age, kids living outside the capital city of Pyongyang are made to work on North Korean farms. Forced labor accounts for a large portion of the country's economic output.

From an early age, kids living outside the capital city of Pyongyang are made to work on North Korean farms. Forced labor accounts for a large portion of the country's economic output. play

From an early age, kids living outside the capital city of Pyongyang are made to work on North Korean farms. Forced labor accounts for a large portion of the country's economic output.

(Damir Sagolj/Reuters)


Some reports have stated that workers who don't comply can be sent to concentration camps as punishment.

Some reports have stated that workers who don't comply can be sent to concentration camps as punishment. play

Some reports have stated that workers who don't comply can be sent to concentration camps as punishment.

(Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

Source: Human Rights Watch



In less developed regions, the trek to school can be fraught with construction projects and dangerous terrain. School buses, when villages have them, are often repurposed dump trucks.

In less developed regions, the trek to school can be fraught with construction projects and dangerous terrain. School buses, when villages have them, are often repurposed dump trucks. play

In less developed regions, the trek to school can be fraught with construction projects and dangerous terrain. School buses, when villages have them, are often repurposed dump trucks.

(Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

Source: earth nutshell



For those without parents, life in North Korean orphanages can be especially brutal. Even the children who get adopted risk rejection later in life if their parents can't support themselves.

For those without parents, life in North Korean orphanages can be especially brutal. Even the children who get adopted risk rejection later in life if their parents can't support themselves. play

For those without parents, life in North Korean orphanages can be especially brutal. Even the children who get adopted risk rejection later in life if their parents can't support themselves.

(Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

Source: CNN



Meanwhile, families that have a bit more money can afford small luxuries, like traditional North Korean clothes.

Meanwhile, families that have a bit more money can afford small luxuries, like traditional North Korean clothes. play

Meanwhile, families that have a bit more money can afford small luxuries, like traditional North Korean clothes.

(Damir Sagolj/Reuters)


But money doesn't free a family from political obligations. Many still worship the country's leaders and make regular trips to the national monuments that honor them, children in tow.

But money doesn't free a family from political obligations. Many still worship the country's leaders and make regular trips to the national monuments that honor them, children in tow. play

But money doesn't free a family from political obligations. Many still worship the country's leaders and make regular trips to the national monuments that honor them, children in tow.

(Reuters)


Often, students will be forced to visit the national monuments to pay their respects to the country's leaders.

Often, students will be forced to visit the national monuments to pay their respects to the country's leaders. play

Often, students will be forced to visit the national monuments to pay their respects to the country's leaders.

(Reinhard Krause/Reuters)


Last June, Kim Jong Un organized a performance titled, "We Are the Happiest in the World" — a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Korean Children's Union.

Last June, Kim Jong Un organized a performance titled, "We Are the Happiest in the World" — a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Korean Children's Union. play

Last June, Kim Jong Un organized a performance titled, "We Are the Happiest in the World" — a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Korean Children's Union.

(KCNA/Reuters)


Indoctrination starts even earlier, however — sometimes in kindergarten. Young kids learn anti-American messages and use toy rifles and grenades to attack cartoon images of soldiers.

Indoctrination starts even earlier, however — sometimes in kindergarten. Young kids learn anti-American messages and use toy rifles and grenades to attack cartoon images of soldiers. play

Indoctrination starts even earlier, however — sometimes in kindergarten. Young kids learn anti-American messages and use toy rifles and grenades to attack cartoon images of soldiers.

(Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

Source: Washington Post



On International Children's Day, a mock military parade in the capital city of Pyongyang features kids dressed up as members of the North Korean army.

On International Children's Day, a mock military parade in the capital city of Pyongyang features kids dressed up as members of the North Korean army. play

On International Children's Day, a mock military parade in the capital city of Pyongyang features kids dressed up as members of the North Korean army.

(Reuters)


The conditions inside schools aren't always sanitary. One kindergarten is located inside the Kim Jong Suk Pyongyang textile mill.

The conditions inside schools aren't always sanitary. One kindergarten is located inside the Kim Jong Suk Pyongyang textile mill. play

The conditions inside schools aren't always sanitary. One kindergarten is located inside the Kim Jong Suk Pyongyang textile mill.

(Damir Sagolj/Reuters)


But such is the nature of inequality in North Korea. Families that don't live in poverty can give their kids a better chance at fun, joy-filled upbringings.

But such is the nature of inequality in North Korea. Families that don't live in poverty can give their kids a better chance at fun, joy-filled upbringings. play

But such is the nature of inequality in North Korea. Families that don't live in poverty can give their kids a better chance at fun, joy-filled upbringings.

(Jacky Chen/Reuters)


For instance, some of the most high-achieving children train at the Mangyongdae Children's Palace, a facility that provides lessons in foreign languages, computing skills, and sports.

For instance, some of the most high-achieving children train at the Mangyongdae Children's Palace, a facility that provides lessons in foreign languages, computing skills, and sports. play

For instance, some of the most high-achieving children train at the Mangyongdae Children's Palace, a facility that provides lessons in foreign languages, computing skills, and sports.

(Damir Sagolj/Reuters)


Some have described Mangyongdae as supremely strange. One visitor to an art class never saw the kids actually touch pen to paper, despite the professional-level illustrations presented before them.

Some have described Mangyongdae as supremely strange. One visitor to an art class never saw the kids actually touch pen to paper, despite the professional-level illustrations presented before them. play

Some have described Mangyongdae as supremely strange. One visitor to an art class never saw the kids actually touch pen to paper, despite the professional-level illustrations presented before them.

(Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

Source: Abandoned Kansai



Run by the Korean Youth Corps, Mangyongdae reportedly accommodates up to 5,400 children at a time in its massive concrete building.

Run by the Korean Youth Corps, Mangyongdae reportedly accommodates up to 5,400 children at a time in its massive concrete building. play

Run by the Korean Youth Corps, Mangyongdae reportedly accommodates up to 5,400 children at a time in its massive concrete building.

(Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

Source: Abandoned Kansai



Their performances are grandiose extensions of the North Korean cult of personality. Themes of honor and greatness are pervasive throughout.

Their performances are grandiose extensions of the North Korean cult of personality. Themes of honor and greatness are pervasive throughout. play

Their performances are grandiose extensions of the North Korean cult of personality. Themes of honor and greatness are pervasive throughout.

(Damir Sagolj/Reuters)


During a performance for foreign journalists in May of 2016, for instance, many of the choral, dance, and acrobatic routines had heavy political undertones.

During a performance for foreign journalists in May of 2016, for instance, many of the choral, dance, and acrobatic routines had heavy political undertones. play

During a performance for foreign journalists in May of 2016, for instance, many of the choral, dance, and acrobatic routines had heavy political undertones.

(Damir Sagolj/Reuters)


Nevertheless, coercion and fear-mongering come quickly in adulthood. People's childhood years may be their only opportunity to live somewhat care-free.

Nevertheless, coercion and fear-mongering come quickly in adulthood. People's childhood years may be their only opportunity to live somewhat care-free. play

Nevertheless, coercion and fear-mongering come quickly in adulthood. People's childhood years may be their only opportunity to live somewhat care-free.

(Damir Sagolj/Reuters)


The children aren't old enough to understand the propaganda they're being fed or know how deplorable their living conditions are.

The children aren't old enough to understand the propaganda they're being fed or know how deplorable their living conditions are. play

The children aren't old enough to understand the propaganda they're being fed or know how deplorable their living conditions are.

(Jacky Chen/Reuters)


It only lasts a short while, but childhood may be the time when North Koreans have the most in common with the rest of the world.

It only lasts a short while, but childhood may be the time when North Koreans have the most in common with the rest of the world. play

It only lasts a short while, but childhood may be the time when North Koreans have the most in common with the rest of the world.

(Damir Sagolj/Reuters)