North Koreans are raised to see the U.S. as their enemy from the time they are toddlers, and they fully prepare for war to break out in their lifetimes.
The U.S. and North Korea have been trading jabs over the past week. North Korea’s top general threatened to launch missiles towards Guam, and President Donald Trump warned that the U.S. military is “locked and loaded” for a conflict on the Korean Peninsula. But while the U.S. is just now pondering the possibility of war with the rogue regime, North Korea has maintained a hostile wartime mentality for many years. Such aggressive thinking is instilled in North Koreans at a very young age.
“From kindergarten classrooms to the halls of power, this is how North Korea views itself: as a scrappy little country that has been bullied by the United States for far too long and is willing to fight back,” writes Jean H. Lee, a global fellow at the Wilson Center who previously served as a reporter in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, in The New York Times.
North Korea finally has the weapons to at least stand up to the U.S. North Korea has developed an intercontinental ballistic missile that can range targets across the U.S., as well as nuclear warheads and reliable reentry vehicles to shield them in flight. The North appears to have everything it needs to launch a nuclear strike on the U.S.
In her article, Lee described a disturbing visit to a North Korean kindergarten, where much of the material was focused on defeating the “imperialist aggressors.”
She stumbled across a children’s book called “A Hedgehog Defeats A Tiger,” which tells the tale of a scrappy hedgehog that defeats the larger tiger using the sharp quills on its back, likely clear symbols for the North’s growing arsenal of ballistic missiles. One of the North Korean asked Lee, an American, “Do you know who the tiger is?”
Lee noted that in one room, there were images of American missionaries torturing North Korean boys bound to trees and American soldiers were setting wild dogs loose on North Korean girls. Another room was filled with mock weapons, which the children used to practice killing Americans.
Throughout the country, there is propaganda everywhere that warns North Koreans that the Americans are preparing to attack. The government tells its people that only Kim Jong-un and his powerful collection of nuclear weapons can stop the U.S. invasion. Lee assesses that Trump’s latest rhetoric may play into the North Korean leader’s lies.
It is reportedly not uncommon to see North Korean children preparing for a war.
The young students of Pyongyang Number Four Elementary school ran obstacle courses with a mock AK-47 slung over their shoulders and tossed grenades as part of the activities for Korean Children’s Union Day in June. “We have to prepare ourselves to defend our country,” Myong Hyon Jong, one of the students, said after completing the various tasks, adding that she wants to join the military when she grows up to “safeguard the respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un with military power.”
A military solution in Korea, as Secretary of Defense James Mattis has said, would be “tragic on an unbelievable scale,” but the warped mindset the prevails inside North Korea is one of the greatest challenges to diplomacy.
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