AFPPYONGYANG (AFP-Jiji) — To celebrate Korean Children’s Union Day on Tuesday, the pupils of Pyongyang Number Four Primary School threw mock grenades at targets, crawled under a frame and threw themselves over a fence — all with an imitation AK47 over their shoulders.
After completing the obstacle course, Myong Hyon Jong, whose favorite subject is mathematics, said she wanted to join the army when she grows up, to “safeguard the respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un with military power.”
“We have to prepare ourselves to defend our country,” she added.
Hyon Jong is 10 years old.
Technically still at war
Her teacher, Ri Su Ryon, explained the race was intended “to give the children the spirit to defend our country when they are grown up, and to prepare them physically and mentally to beat down any enemies while upholding the Songun [military-first] revolutionary leadership of the respected marshal” — a reference to leader Kim Jong Un.
Nuclear-armed North Korea is technically still in a state of conflict after the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty.
It considers itself at risk of invasion by the United States — its justification for the atomic and missile programs that have seen it subjected to multiple rounds of United Nations Security Council sanctions. The latest expansion came only last week.
Since the beginning of 2016, Kim has overseen two nuclear tests and scores of missile launches as Pyongyang seeks to develop a missile that can deliver a warhead to the continental United States — something U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed “won’t happen.”
Tensions soared earlier this year as his administration said that military options were being considered.
Teacher Ri, 24, who took part in the obstacle race herself, told AFP: “I threw the hand grenade with the mind that I would beat down all the enemies who even try to infiltrate our country.”
Ordinary North Koreans normally only express officially approved views when speaking to foreign media.