Everyone in North Korea serves the military -- even, according to boastful state propagandists, kids.
North Korea's official propaganda outlet, the Korean Central News Agency, recently declared the state's appreciation for all those young school kids who "helped" manufacture rocket-shooting tanks for the People's Army. The announcement, which coincided with a military parade in the country's second-largest city to show off the vehicles, also thanked the "Democratic Women's Union":
Multiple-launch rocket systems "Sonyon-ho" and "Nyomaeng-ho" manufactured with the assistance of school youth and children and members of the Democratic Women's Union of Korea (DWUK) across the country were presented to units of the Korean People's Army (KPA) with due ceremony at Hamhung Square in South Hamgyong Province on Thursday to mark the 80th anniversary of the KPA.
Those rockets are associated with their will to remain true to the Party's Songun revolutionary leadership generation after generation and their patriotic desire to make contributions to bolstering the nation's defence capability.
Multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS, in military parlance) are serious pieces of equipment, meant to fire guided or unguided explosives over dozens or miles. That they were apparently built in part by school-aged kids is a reminder that North Korean society is so militarized -- and so exploited -- that even children are skilled and practiced at constructing sophisticated mechanical and electronic weaponry. That the state would actually boast its use of child labor for building tanks is a reminder of the extent to which military nationalism has twisted North Korean society.
It's the kind of oddball story that gives this country its cartoonishly villainous image, but it's also a neat encapsulation of the North Korean system and its improbable survival under three generations of rule. North Korea, the most specialized society in the world, perhaps in history, has been engineered by the Kim family to do exactly two things very well: militarize and enslave.