Photo/IllutrationNorth Korean textbooks obtained by The Asahi Shimbun (Lee Seong-jin)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

SEOUL--North Korean school textbooks describe South Korea as uncaring of its people, accuse Japan of ducking its wartime responsibilities and, according to one expert, encourage children to inform on parents who criticize the state.

The Asahi Shimbun obtained 20 textbooks published in 2015 and used at various grades in the 12 years of compulsory education in North Korea.

Much of the criticism of South Korea is used to highlight what the textbooks describe as the positive aspects of the North Korean regime.

For example, a “socialist ethics” textbook used for the third year of junior high school mentions the 2014 sinking of the Sewol ferry that killed about 300 in South Korea.

The textbook explains that the “puppet government” in Seoul ignored the calls of the public to save the passengers and to look into why the accident occurred.

In contrast, the same textbook says about North Korea: “We have wonderful hospitals where the people can receive free medical care.”

The passage goes on to say that without the generosity of the North Korean state, the people would end up like the children of South Korea who died at sea.

The history textbook used in the third year of senior high school analyzes the failure of the March 1, 1919, uprising that sought to gain independence from Japanese colonial rule.

The passage said the failure underscored the need for a brilliant leader and a revolutionary party at the head of any independence movement, obvious references to Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea, and the role played by the Workers’ Party of Korea.

For the 100th anniversary of that uprising, South Korean President Moon Jae-in proposed a joint ceremony of the two Koreas. But Pyongyang refused to join.

A North Korean defector said Pyongyang would never take part in any event commemorating what it describes as a bourgeoisie failure.

Japan also comes in for its share of criticism, especially over its demands for the return of Japanese abducted by North Korean agents decades ago.

The textbook states that Japan makes these demands to avoid apologizing and compensating for its past actions while moving to fulfill its dream of a greater East Asia co-prosperity sphere.

Kang In-duk, a former South Korean unification minister, said he feels the main objective of the textbooks is “to create citizens who unconditionally worship” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Referring to the passage about free medical care, Kang said parents may realize that such claims are false, but they won’t tell their children the truth out of fear that they might talk about it at school, prompting authorities to silence the parents.

“One aim of the educational system is to foster children into informants,” Kang said.

He also explained the textbooks blame external factors, such as U.S. imperialism, for anything bad that has occurred in North Korea. That way, various North Korean leaders can avoid being held responsible.

Kang said repeated teaching of such claims is a form of “brainwashing” that produces citizens who never feel that their lives are bad, even in terrible living conditions.

“The style of the textbooks has not changed since 70 years ago when North Korea was founded,” Kang said. “Unless North Korea abandons its hereditary leadership structure, it will be unable to prevent the growing gap between reality and what appears in the textbooks.”