North Korean Youth Resent Forced Cheers and Rallies

Exhausted by rehearsals for a national holiday, many show anger at being forced to take part, sources say.

North Koreans salute and bow to statues of founding national leader Kim Il Sung (L) and his son Kim Jong Il, Aug. 12, 2018.

Young North Koreans forced to rehearse displays of crowd loyalty at an upcoming national holiday are losing interest in the slogans they shout, with many showing open signs of resentment at being made to participate, North Korean sources say.

Some have been pulled from their workplaces to take part, while others have been denied their right to go home during breaks from school, a source in the capital Pyongyang told RFA’s Korean Service.

“All colleges are in the middle of [summer] vacation, but the city is full of young people who’ve been mobilized for practicing,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Changwang Street, [founding national leader] Kim Il Sung Square, the Central Library, and the Juche Tower area all have traffic jams now at certain times of the day,” he said.

Many are exhausted from the daily cheering practice in preparation for the Sept. 9 anniversary of the founding of the North Korean state, the source said, adding that those who come late or fail to attend risk severe criticism at the final review of their performance.

Meanwhile, students coming from schools outside Pyongyang have not been allowed by the country’s leaders to go home on their summer break, he said.

“The students from other provinces are not happy with the Central Committee because they cannot return home for their 15-day vacation from classes.”

“College students are getting tired of their constant participation in the planning for the event, and they are criticizing [the government] for forcing them to be involved,” he said. “Some are adding negative words to their chants, or simply shout to relieve their stress.”

Many just follow along

Also speaking to RFA, a second source in Pyongyang said that few of those taking part in the rehearsals care about or understand the slogans they are chanting.

“If someone in the front cheers, the others just follow along or shout out something unrelated,” the source said.

“I was surprised when some college students who took part in the event for Kim Il Sung’s birthday in April said they didn’t even know what the event was about,” he said.

“It’s pretty shocking when they say they don’t know what they’re cheering, but just do whatever the person next to them does.”

The level of dissatisfaction among North Korea’s young is now “reaching its limit,” the source said.

“College students are openly expressing their anger toward the authorities for making them take part in these events and for coercing their loyalty,” he said.

Reported by Jieun Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jung. Written in English by Richard Finney.