PYONGYANG, North Korea
North Korea’s newest batch of future soldiers — scrawny 11-year-olds with freshly shaved heads — punch the air as they practice taekwondo on the grounds of the Mang- yongdae Revolutionary School. Students and teachers here say they’re studying harder these days to prepare for a fight.
Across the country, banners, slogans and artwork have been redrawn to focus on fighting “the imperialist Americans and their traitorous followers,” a reference to South Korea. Slogans on improving North Korea’s economy had dominated since 2009, but anti-American propaganda has re-emerged over the past year, particularly following U.S.-led censure of North Korea’s decision to launch a long-range rocket and test a nuclear bomb.
At the military school, where students work on desktop computers without Internet access and practice their English with chants such as “The respected Marshal Kim Jong Un is our father,” classwork is infused with conflict.
“Because of the present situation, I am trying to study harder, because I really think that’s how I can get my revenge on the American imperialists: by getting top marks in class,” one student, Jo Chung Hyok, told The Associated Press.
The uptick in anti-American sentiment comes on the heels of international condemnation and U.N. sanctions for North Korea’s long-range rocket launch in December and its underground nuclear test in February, which Pyongyang accuses Washington and Seoul of instigating. Joint U.S.-South Korean military drills south of the border also have incensed Pyongyang.