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(LEAD) Park: N. Korea should take care of children

2016/05/05 20:28

(ATTN: RECASTS throughout with comments by Park; CHANGES headline)

SEOUL, May 5 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye voiced hope Thursday that North Korea would take care of its people and children, a sign of her interest in the true lives of North Koreans as South Korea marked Children's Day.

The comments came after she watched Russian documentary maker Vitaly Mansky's latest work "Under the Sun," a movie that offered a rare glimpse into life inside North Korea.

"It would be good if the movie could serve as an occasion to make North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons programs and take care of its people and children," Park said.

Some 50 people, including North Korean defectors, were invited to watch the movie with Park at a local theater in southern Seoul.

North Korea has long been accused of pursuing missile and nuclear weapons programs while starving its people and violating their human rights.

The movie -- which revolves around Zin-Mi, a schoolgirl who joined the Korean Children's Union on the birthday of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il -- reveals that life in the communist country is stage-managed by North Korean authorities.

Kim's birthday on Feb. 16, known as the Day of the Shining Star, is one of the North's biggest national holidays along with the birthday of his late father, North Korea's founder Kim Il-sung.

Kim Jong-il is the late father of the current leader Kim Jong-un whom North Korean state media described as "the great sun of the 21st century."

   Park also said South Korea should take care of North Korean children who are "losing dreams and living in difficult situations."

   Still, she did not elaborate on how South Korea can take care of North Koreans.

Inter-Korean ties have been frozen after North Korea carried out a fourth nuclear test and a long-range rocket launch earlier this year.

North Korea marks International Children's Day on June 1.

North Korea claims it is a paradise, but the country has long been accused of grave human rights abuses, ranging from holding political prisoners in concentration camps to committing torture and carrying out public executions.

President Park Geun-hye meets with about 300 children at the presidential garden of Nokjiwon as part of Children’s Day celebrations on May 5, 2016. (Yonhap) President Park Geun-hye meets with about 300 children at the presidential garden of Nokjiwon as part of Children’s Day celebrations on May 5, 2016. (Yonhap)

Also on Thursday, Park met with about 300 children at the presidential garden of Nokjiwon as part of Children's Day celebrations.

Park told the children to pursue their dreams as she introduced an innovation center and a test-free semester program.

South Korea has set up a total of 17 innovation centers in major cities across the country to encourage creative and entrepreneurial people to turn their ideas into real businesses with the help of cutting-edge science and information technology.

South Korea introduced a test-free semester program in 2013 to provide middle school students with chances to experience a wide range of learning activities to help them discover their future careers.

Under the program, schools will shift the focus away from test scores and engage students through discussions, experiments, outdoor activities and team projects.

The one-semester program represents a big change in a country where students tend to rely on rote learning that critics say is to blame for a lack of creativity and critical thinking.

entropy@yna.co.kr

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