Mangyongdae Children’s Palace

Pyongyang, North Korea | C.1989

Photo Credit: @flip_flip_flip

North Korea’s former supreme leader Kim Il-sung once declared that “children are the kings of the country.” Consequently, many cities have some version of a “schoolchildren’s palace,” devoted to education with a healthy dose of state propaganda.

The Mangyongdae Children’s Palace is the largest of its kind and can accommodate 10,000 children daily. Established in 1989, two years before Kim Jong-il took the reins of government from his father, the “palace” was opened to kids and young adults for extracurricular activities, such as classes in which military choruses were composed by kindergarteners.

Since its refurbishment on orders of Kim Jong-il’s son, Kim Jong-un—who took over in 2011—it has become a carefully scripted tour stop for those allowed into the country. A performance is usually involved, which begins with students singing as a video montage rolls behind them. The footage includes patriotic images of North Korea, fireworks, and Kim Jong-un’s rocket and missile launches, and the songs feature lyrics about children wanting to be pilots and artillery gunners. The final act features a projection of the face of Kim Jong-un, the child who is indeed the king of the country.

📖 Featured on Page 302 of AWA, The Book 📖

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