University students in North Korea are preparing for a very long summer vacation — ten months of manual labour on farms, in factories or at construction sites in order to prepare for the 100-year anniversary of their dead founder’s birth.
Peter Hughes, British Ambassador to North Korea, told University World News from Pyongyang: “I can confirm that students from all the universities in Pyongyang have been mobilised to work at construction sites in the outskirts of the city until April 2012.”
Universities are still open, but foreigners have noticed the very small number of students left studying there in recent months.
Hughes also said: “Some two years ago the DPRK announced that it would build 200,000 units of accommodation in the city to ease the chronic housing shortage. To date only some 10,000 units have been built, so the students have been taken out of universities in order to speed up the construction of the balance before major celebrations take place in April 2012.”
But analysts from Japan and South Korea told University World News that Pyongyang may have dispersed university students for another more nefarious reason: they fear of demonstrations. They noted that North Korea purchased tear gas and batons from China earlier this month and has increased police levels on city streets.