North Korea is set to publish a new textbook on the childhood days of young leader Kim Jong Un as part of resource material under a revamped curriculum for elementary school students beginning April 1, according to sources inside the reclusive nation.
It may be the first officially sanctioned textbook on Kim since he succeeded his father Kim Jong Il, who died of a heart attack in December 2011, the sources said.
Discussions among educators revealed that the new textbook will be titled Childhood of Beloved and Venerated Leader, Kim Jong Un, a source in Pyongsong, the capital of South Pyongan province in western North Korea, told RFA's Korean service.
North Koreans are anxious to read the new book following a blunder in another textbook on Kim that was used by an elite high school and withdrawn due to "distorted propaganda," another source, who is a university student, said from North Hamkyung province.
The source said that the controversial book Kim Jong Un’s Childhood, used at the North Korean capital's Pyongyang Geumseong High School attended by children of high-ranking officials, was withdrawn following criticism that it "distorted and exaggerated" the leader's growing-up years.
“There has been strong criticism about the distorted propaganda of Kim Jong Un’s past," the source said.
"So, I think maybe this time, the regime revised it so ordinary people could accept it," the source said. "People are highly interested in the textbook illustrating Kim Jong Un’s life because there has been nothing available to get to know about him.”
Contents to be scrutinized
Considering the withdrawal of the high school book, "there has been no information about Kim Jong Un, so people are wondering about the contents of the [new] textbook,” another source from North Hamkyung province said.
There have been conflicting reports on the junior Kim — from his birth to his early days overseas. Kim Jong Un is thought to have been born in 1983 or 1984.
Some reports have said he had his early education in Switzerland, describing him as a shy boy and a basketball fan, before a stint at the Kim Il Sung University, a leading elite-training school in Pyongyang.
The source from Pyongsong city said that the new textbook on Kim Jong Un is among many new books to be published under a new education system to be implemented from April.
“There are a lot of revised text books and new text books coming out from this year, and I heard that the publishers have already completed the publishing,” the source said.
Last September, North Korea's rubber-stamp parliament decided to extend the compulsory education period from 11 to 12 years in the first policy change under Kim Jong Un made public by state media.
The period would include one year of pre-school, five years of elementary school, three years of primary middle school, and three years of advanced middle school, reports have said.
System in ruins
The education system in the impoverished nation has been in ruins since a famine in the 1990s deprived most schools of heating fuel, adequate food rations, and school supplies. The situation remains largely unchanged today.
Under the changes approved by the legislature, more classrooms and teachers will be given priority in the distribution of food and fuel rations, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
Reported by Sung Hui Moon for RFA's Korean Service. Translated by Ju Hyeon Park. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.