Friday, March 20

"Scholastic Children's Press" publishes book of North Korean propaganda ?

A post at the Federalist:
While browsing at Barnes & Noble a woman noticed a new book in the section on children’s guides to foreign countries.  It was titled “A True Book About North Korea” by "Scholastic Children’s Press."

Could the children’s book company actually have tried explaining gulags or slave labor to children?  How about a society that starves its people while lavishing luxury goods on its ruler?
Of course the book explained none of these things. Instead it was as if Kim Jong-un himself had written a guide to his kingdom. 

The back cover reads: “The capital city has an excellent subway system. It is decorated with wall paintings and chandeliers.”  In fact only two subway stations seem to meet this description--the only two stations foreigners ever see. North Korean officials claim the whole system looks like this, but it’s impossible to know if any other stations even exist.

One foreign visitor was able to escape his minders and tried to make his way to a station off-limits to visitors.  It was closed.  Some North-Korea-watchers believe parts of the system exist but none are in use--that there's just a shuttle running between the two show stations when visitors are present, with actors playing the part of busy commuters.
Another talking point revolves around the devastating famine of the mid-1990s and how it impacted the people. Scholastic, like North Korean propagandists, claims, “Unfortunately, juche (self-reliance) has not always worked. In the mid-1990s, floods and drought led to terrible famines. Many people died or lost their homes. Today, North Korea is a poor country.”
Juche has never worked. North Korea has relied on foreign aid from its inception. Since the fall of the Soviet Union it has held the Western world hostage with threats of nuclear advancement and war in exchange for food. The famines of the ’90s, which killed one to two million people, were not due to natural causes. They were directly caused by the policies of North Korean leaders.

The abject poverty in which most North Koreans live isn’t due to drought, floods or American sanctions (as North Koreans claim). It’s Communism. At the end of the Korean War, both the North and the South were in rough shape. Today, they could not be more different. The change took place in just one generation: the South embraced market economics and made great strides in increasing individual liberty for its citizens. The North did the very opposite, and got opposite results.
 
Scholastic claims Pyongyang is filled with modern apartment buildings and architecture.  In truth, many buildings are simply unfinished outer shells. One of the most iconic buildings, a hotel in the center of the city, cannot be completed because of what is believed to have been flawed architectural planning. The windows can’t have glass installed because of poor design, and an elevator cannot be installed for the same reason. It was under construction while North Koreans starved in the 1990s. 
 
Now it sits empty.

There are several other laugh lines, including: “North Korea puts great emphasis on education. All schooling is free."  While schooling is technically free, it’s widely known from defector testimony and interviews that parents are “expected to provide desks, chairs, building materials and cash to pay for heating fuel.” One of the most disturbing reports is that, to set the foundation for the brainwashing that will continue throughout a North Korean’s life, the only heated room in an entire school is a room dedicated to worshiping the Kim family. Thus the only warmth a child feels all day is while admiring a photo of their Great Leaders.
Here’s another gem: “North Koreans shop mostly in simple stores that sell local products. They buy fruits and vegetables at outdoor markets. To purchase food, people must present food coupons. These are handed out by the government.”
The truth is, as in other Communist countries, the food voucher system sounds great in theory but fails in practice. There are usually not enough fruits or vegetables to go around, making government food coupons useless, leaving North Koreans with cash reliant on the black market for food.
I think I'll hit B&N's website and see.  And then Scholastic's.  Doesn't surprise me a bit that the published of "educational" childrens' books would put out pro-communist propaganda like this.  Is anyone else surprised?

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