Pyongsong, North Korea


Photographer: Mark Edward Harris

Year of Submission: 2016 (Educators Edition) 

''You’re looking in top form!” “Something got you down?” “I got my report card and I’m not happy about it.” “Long time no see!” “Many happy returns of the day.” “My gracious!” At Kim Jong Suk Higher Middle School in the North Korean city of Pyongsong, students are taking an afternoon English class. It seems unlikely any of them will ever put their learning to use in an English-speaking country. But if that bothers them, they don’t show it. Occasionally, visitors from Western countries are brought to watch the class. In a brief question-and-answer session that follows, every student wants to ask a question. “Why is America so dangerous?” one of them asks a visitor from England. His teacher gently reprimands him: “It is not polite to ask such a question of our guest.” The students laugh. The English visitor laughs. The teacher laughs.