1. When I was in elementary school, the teachings were mostly on pity toward the North Korean general population, especially the children. Every now and then we would be given assignments to write letters to our North Korean peers. I remember writing one, and all I could write about was how I’d like to send them some of my favorite snacks, because I was taught in school that they were impoverished and shut off from the rest of the world.
When I was in highschool, we learned more about the exploits of the regime, and the importance of democracy. The teachings became more about appreciating what we have in South Korea and understanding the failed government in North Korea.
When I was a soldier in the Korean Army (ROK Army), we were grilled day and night on the belligerent nature of the North Korean government, and how the Kim Dynasty is slaving the NK people. Our shooting targets are still cut outs of NK soldiers.
If you can tell, the nuance for pity and sympathy toward the general North Korean public is constant throughout. South Korea’s institutional stance toward NK people still has a warm spot. Movies, TV shows, and other media portraying the sorrows of a divided people are still popular.
To sum up, we are taught to feel sympathy toward the NK people and hate the dictatorship.
2. What we are taught about North Korea is heavily affected by our governments, pro NK party or anti NK party, and political situations at that moment.
When i was young, I was taught just like you. Things like how North Koreans are same ethnicity as South Koreans. More sympathizing than hating them, especially about the nk people. That was because back then, our government was run by liberal party which is more pro-NK. What I mean by pro-NK is less hostile to NK compared to the other party, not super friendly to NK like China. And pro united NK.
Then as I became a teenager, our government was run by super anti-NK conservative party. There were no more sympathzing stories about NK, but strong anti communism. It is like they almost dont want Korea to be united. They dont want kids to be too familiar with NK and get sympathetic, attached to them.
Until Korean president PGH was impeched, Korea has been pretty much Trump level anti NK. I believe younger generations would be still learnng about united Korea thing and all. But less and less people want Korea to be united, especiallly the younger ones. Young people really just dont care about NK. Its an old thing.
NK is more of a joke rather than a serious enemy for younger people. What I mean is yeah, kids are still learning about NK but its significantly less important and less serious than it was.
3. Basically, we were taught that we have families and friends in NK and its their government that needs to be taken down. Annually, we had to draw or write wishes of becoming united Korea again and was given award for making the best writing or drawing in school. We were also taught not to waste food because NK “kkotjaebi” (orphaned homeless kids who eat off spilled foods on the market grounds) does not have the luxury to eat what we eat. We were also taught that we have to alert the police of military of any suspicious individuals who may be the NK spies.
My grandparents are from Kaesong before Korean conflict happened and majority of their family are in NK. We don’t know if any of them is alive or well, but just hope that one day we get to see them.
4. It wasn’t exactly hidden from kids even when they’re young. I remember being aware of North Korea’s existence as long as I can remember because of the whole reunification movement that is visible in everyday life, even before I started going to school.
The general vibe was that they were taken away from us, living in harsh conditions and that we should try to reunite as a favour to them.
I left before being taught any proper Korean history, so maybe somebody else will have more to say in that sense.
5. In school, it never got too political. If anything, it never got too negative, it was more sympathetic. But I imagine what the kids hear now is different than what we heard. (I’m in late 20s). What I remember is it being painted as a political problem and we were a country that was torn that should unite again someday. I remember we did see footage of what dire conditions North Koreans live through in class.
In middle school we had a student that was from North Korea that defected through China I don’t remember having many specific conversations with her but the overall attitude was fascination for than anything. (“Wow you’re really from there??”)
I think it’s also important to note there were still many people whose grandparents were from the North. My grandpa, for example, was from the North and had a whole family there. He was down south on business when it all happened and never quite made his way back I suppose. He is no longer with us and he never found out what happened to his previous family. I’d imagine there’s relatively few people left who are from the North and grew up there long enough to remember a lot or have family they remember back there now.
6. Essentially, in SK in the 90’s, there were two lenses through which one could view NK:
Civic nationalist doctrine: fuck NK and their evil government, they want nukes, starve their people, and want to kill us all if they could. SK is definitely the good guys, look how rich we are now compared to them, they lost the Cold War and it’s only a matter of time until they collapse.
Ethno-nationalist doctrine: North Koreans are our own blood, and they are starving (see: arduous march), we gotta help them. New liberal president of SK, Kim Dae Joong initiates the Sunshine Policy to be kinder and friendlier to the North, and the future is bright for all Koreans.
Compare that to today, where most everyone is either apathetic or hateful towards NK, or nostalgic of the old days (see: Moon Jae-In platform). Mostly apathetic, but them North Koreans are getting p close to getting ICBMs soooo..
7. The following is an account from around 1984-1987.
I remember propaganda cartoons on TV – from the 70s – that showed communists as animals. There was a series called 똘이장군 where there was a young boy who fought communists, who were shown as animals. I found some videos on YouTube, for example: https://youtu.be/PNxySc3L7-I?t=53m20s
On one hand we were taught that reunification should be the goal, and we sang a song titled “Our Wish is Unification,” but on the other hand, we were taught that communists were evil and they did horrible things, axe-murdering American soldiers at the Panmunjeom (a neutral meeting place), slicing tearing open the mouth of a young boy who shouted “I don’t like communists/the communist party” (the kid is said to have died and there was a monument at his home town or something).
The north were said to be digging tunnels to surprise-attack the south, and if you went to the borders you could visit the tunnels yourself – that had luckily been discovered beforehand.
Propaganda materials from the north could be found in the countryside (dropped from balloons? scattered by spies?) and if you found them and turned them in to your teacher, you could get pencils as a reward.
There were said to be undercover agents living among us, northern spies pretending to be from the south. If somebody didn’t know the latest fads you’d ask them “are you a spy?” as a joke. We were taught to be suspicious of people who weren’t aware of current events.
8. I am 34 and was raised in Korea until 12. At my age, it really is not too different from what you would get at other democratic nations I guess. North Korea was a starving communist country that always threatened and was wiling to attack South Korea at any given opportunty. NK caused the Korean War that cost the peninsula dearly, but global alliance headed by America saved SK. Despite the war, South Koreans who are naturally smart with superior work ethics (not what i think but was jist of what they taught) drove the economy to grow at a tremendous speed (miracle of Han river as Koreans call it), surprising the entire world while NK was still starving and forever looking for ways to attack SK.
Meanwhile, we were also taugh NK and SK is one country, and that reunification is the dream of all Koreans, and that we should strive for reunification without really talking about the methods….
But my parents era is completely different. I remeber my mom telling me (shes nearly 60) how she once thought North Koreans had crimson face like Dokebi (sort of korean ogre) with horns on their heads when she was little. So there must be a change in tone somewhere in between.
9. I was born in South Korea, left when I was 5 for California, and came back to Seoul almost every summer (last time I went back was two years ago, and I’m 24 for reference). I wasn’t taught about North Korea in school, but my family (both sides were farmers) fled to the south when war broke out, and my grandpa fought for the south. He reunited with his little brother in a market place when they were both adult men–his little brother had escaped the north as some point amidst the chaos of war.
My family has always talked about the north with empathy; my mother and my uncles would not have been born had both my grandparents’ families fled (both of my great-grandmothers died in the war). I’ve always seen it as a tragedy that the countries are separated, and my family has always hoped for reunification. Generally, as a South Korean, I feel like we hope for reunification under a democracy, but with each passing year that hope dwindles as the reality of how shockingly different our two cultures/mindsets/ways of life are now sets in.
10. I grew up in SK (Seoul, born and raised!), stayed in the country til I was 15, before moving out of the country.
When I was in grade school, (this was almost throughout the 2000s), we were taught that our brothers up north were, indeed, brothers. It was Kim Jong Il that we were supposed to hate. This was, restrospectively, a reflection of our regime at the time; President Kim Dae Joong and President Roh Mu Hyeon (both are considered very liberal. Only liberal presidents we’ve ever had, in fact. Both of whom I respect and admire greatly).
We were taught songs on Reunion. It went like: Our wish is Reunion, even in our dreams: reunion. Proper propaganda sounding material. We were educated EXTENSIVELY throughout grade school and middle school about the Korean War (or, as Koreeens call it, 6.25 war. Cause it started on June 25th, 1950). We were taught on how after we were FREEDOM’D by the States after 4 decades of getting fucked by Japan in every possible oriface, the Cold War settled into our tiny peninsula and how the war started. Throughout these history lessons, neither the material nor the teachers had negative views towards the North. We weren’t told of the gory details when we were just overgrown babies (in Grade school). About the public executions, reality of the famine, constant fear of the leader, etc.