A Young Pioneer dutifully taking notes, about what, I’m not sure, inside Moranbong Park. In Pyongyang.

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Young Pioneers on a field trip inside Moranbong Park. I met two Canadians who thought NoKo was much better and more open than they expected after seeing Young Pioneers sporting Mickey Mouse backpacks. They were falsely equating the ironically “Happiest Place on Earth’s” icon with progress on human rights. In Pyongyang.

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Young Pioneers along the Taedong River. They were learning how to use rowboats, I think, but were mainly paddling around in circles. First reticent, eventually they all posed for photos, even with me. They were nice and giggly, like school girls their age normally are. It was a nice moment. In Pyongyang.

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A Young Pioneer plays it “cool” along the Taedong River. We were on our scheduled “Walk along the Taedong River,” and he followed us the entire way. But whenever I’d try to say hello, or acknowledge him, he’d quickly look away, pretending he was neither interested in, nor following us. In Pyongy

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Guitar class at one of the Children’s Palaces in Pyongyang

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When we visit a calligraphy class filled with (I was told) three- and four-year-olds whose work would put the Great Masters to shame, the gravity of the situation becomes clear: these Children’s Palaces aren’t large, splendid houses for leisurely learning; they’re extracurricular-activity jails.

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Piano class at one of the Children’s Palaces in Pyongyang.

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One thing the Chidren’s Palaces are is palatial. In this photo the students are learning martial arts; organized in the foreground, while in the background, two boy students kept smacking one another whenever the teacher looked away…proving boys will be boys. Even in North Korea. In Pyongyang.

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Want to know what it feels like to be ushered into a room of young girls seated, skirts on, legs spread, most wearing protective shoe covers with bows, holding giant accordions, who bust out a tune as if you’ve caught them by surprise? If feels fucking strange. In Pyongyang.

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Art class at a Children’s where all of the student’s drawings were perfectly executed, proving either their regimented training is paying off (they practice for hours each day, every day of their childhood), or their “sketches” were merely props used to impress tourists. In Pyongyang.

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Just like at the Children’s Palace, orphans at the orphanage also “spontaneously” break out into perfectly orchestrated song and dance routines. In Nampo.

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Dozens of children, still too young to be afraid or cynical of me, followed me one day shouting, “Hell-oh! Good-bye!” over and over as they waved. Soon they will become as walled-off as the rest of the population and no longer look at an American Imperialist, much less smile at one. In Sariwon.

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At the Nampo Orphanage, which was chockfull of twins and triplets, who were wearing outfits chosen by the great leader, or so I was told. In Nampo.

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As I was leaving the orphanage, a group of children ran to me to wave goodbye (they are behind glass). For whatever reason, this expression of free movement did not sit well with the staff, which quickly moved to shoo all the children back inside their assigned room. In Nampo.

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