There are days when this blog almost writes itself:
PYONGYANG, North Korea — North Korean students in Pyongyang celebrated the first day of their new school year this week with flowers and confetti. It’s a moment marked by ceremony for students entering a school for the first time, whether it’s primary school, a university or something in between. It’s a tradition for the parents of primary school students to pin flowers on their new school uniforms. At middle school, older returning students do the honors for their new classmates. [AP]
I look forward to reading the AP’s detailed coverage of the first day of elementary school in Latvia, Turkmenistan, and Burkina Faso — all equally newsworthy events. Maybe they can cover those stories with the AP staff who aren’t covering the food crisis in North Korea’s outer provinces, its WMD programs, or its concentration camps.
The pictures accompanying the article are credited to Jon Chol Jin, who I assume works for the North Korean government. I point this out, because I don’t think this is the sort of thing the AP’s readers should have to guess. The AP should have disclosed it.
As it turns out, the school in question isn’t completely typical:
At Pyongyang Middle School No. 1, which late leader Kim Jong Il attended as a teen, older students showered their new schoolmates with confetti Monday and pinned bright pink flowers on their chests. Mothers wearing traditional Korean dresses posed for snapshots with their children, then squeezed into the back of classrooms as the students took their seats and opened up notebooks for the first day of school.
At the front of the room was a big whiteboard, with the portraits of late President Kim Il Sung and late leader Kim Jong Il hanging on the wall above it. At the back was a billboard with hand-painted instructions on rules and policies. “I promise on behalf of my classmates to study hard,” one student said in a brief ceremony in the courtyard outside the school.
Yes, all North Korean children have fresh haircuts, clean uniforms, full bellies, and love Great Leader Kim Il Sung! Only dastardly imperialists who slander the dignity of the Workers’ Paradise would say otherwise!
Has anyone else noticed that the AP’s by-lines no longer tell us who is writing its “news” stories from Pyongyang? This is something else I shouldn’t have to guess, but I think I can, and if I’m right, one of the unwritten headlines of this piece must be how the AP is taking all the fun out of reading KCNA. Now that KCNA has established its iron-fisted control over the content of the AP’s reporting, the AP’s journalists have been reduced to acting as North Korea’s killjoy proofreaders, sanding off guilty pleasures like “brigandish,” “traitorous,” and “the puppet group hurled all hues of riff-raffs and anti-DPRK hysteric elements” until all we have left is dull, processed pulp — in other words, all the objective truth-telling of KCNA and all the tangy zip of the McPaper. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like reading the news under Chinese occupation, it would be pretty much this. The AP reminds us just how slavishly journalism can serve the state — any state. Hail ants!