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.
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
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
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.”