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13 North Koreans Die Trying To Rescue Portraits Of Kim Leaders

REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter

A group of North Korean teachers and students died in an August flood attempting to save portraits of leaders in the Kim regime.

Seven teachers, including the vice principal, and six students at Songhak High School in North Hamgyong Province died trying to salvage portraits and paintings of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il from the flood waters, a North Korean source told Daily NK, a Seoul-based news outlet.

“The vice principal, fearing punishment for not properly protecting the idolization material, declared an emergency during the flood, and the teachers and students mobilized for the recovery task ended up losing their lives,” the source said.

Failing to protect portraits of the Kim family, even in emergencies, is punishable in North Korea. The North Korean government threatens people’s livelihoods and social status to ensure loyalty at all costs.

The state requires people to “serve the leader first with eagerness.”

“If it weren’t for the vice principal’s forced display of loyalty, they could have avoided tragedy. It was the demand for loyalty that the Party so emphasizes that drove them to their deaths,” the source explained.

Many local residents are said to have commented that the teachers and students “died in vain.” Some people have reportedly said that the North Korean people must start putting their own lives first.

The families of the victims are not permitted to lodge complaints against the North Korean government, so they criticize the vice principal’s reckless decision to drag children into such a situation.

“How can the poor children rest in peace after dying in such miserable conditions?” another inside source asked.

Severe flooding in August killed at least 130 people. Hundreds more disappeared, and over 140,000 people were left in need of food and shelter. The floods were called “a major and complex disaster” by the Red Cross.

North Korea has been struggling to recover. Diseases, such as e. coli and cholera, are already spreading. As winter approaches, the situation in North Korea is expected to worsen. Parts of the country will start to see sub-zero temperatures by the end of the month.

The North Korean government is focused on rebuilding idolization sites and houses.

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