North Korean children's guitar ensemble performs "Our Kindergarten Teacher"

[Video Link] (via Eric Wareheim)


  1. Wow there have been amazing advances in animatronics since the last time I was paying attention.

    But seriously, based on the missing teeth I noticed, these kids are probably around 6 years old. I can’t imagine the coercion necessary to get 5 six year olds to focus enough to learn that song and then be able to play as a group that well. I hope they have some time for fun in the regimented lives.

  2. If the words to that song are not, “HELP ME! I AM BEING HELD CAPTIVE AND FORCED TO LEARN THE GUITAR!!”

    …they might as well be.

  3. Small humans:Huge guitars

    It’s like the bizarro world version of BoingBoing’s ukulele obsession.

    It would be cute and funny if it weren’t for the whole oppression thing. Pity.

  4. sad? frightening? why? because they are epi-eyed? because the politics and poverty of their country is a travesty?

    i’m guessing that the work they did to get there was difficult and they might have preferred playing video games all day if they had the chance. but i’m also guessing they are a little proud of the skills they developed. and that they feel good making music. go easy on them.

    1. Nice musical remake of Village of the Damned


      My first thought was that if only Steve Vai had gotten hold of these tykes, then Bad 4 Good would have been one hell of a lot awesomer.

      But yeah, this is more of a bummer. Those smiles are nailed in place. You can tell they’re perfectly capable of maintaining those sunny grins while holding their hands over an open flame. The disciplined practice and finger strength and dexterity required to play guitar like that takes years, and all that work cannot be beneficial to the healthy development of such young hands. Not only do I worry about these five kids themselves, but I wonder how many other kids in this program washed out because they weren’t up to the rigors? And what happened to them?

      This is why we worry more since they hail from DPRK rather than, say, Canada.

  5. Was I not supposed to enjoy that? If I did, does that mean I am succumbing to the ways of Best Korea?

    My head is swimming with thoughts on how capital goods should be directly allocated to meet economic demands so that production is oriented toward use and accounting is based on some physical magnitude. Relatively equal power-relations, self-management, and dispersed decision-making for all!

    I need to stop typing now.

  6. Well orchestrated choreography is not necessarily equivalent to oppression.

    While I am no fan of North Korea, I don’t see this as proof of anything about the government itself. If they were Canadians, everyone here would be gushing over about how talented they are. I find it sad that people let their politics take that away from these children.

    1. Thznk you for your post! and I agree,..not to take away from the wonderful job these little children have accomplished.

    2. In Canada we are social democrats…I hardly see the comparison to North Korea…very strange. People are expressing their concern over the video because the kids have obviously been made to train far beyone what would normally be excpected for someone in this age group, not because they are receiving fantastic health care benefits or other socially democratic advantages? Do you understand? Capatilistic policies are closer to dictatorship than social policies.

  7. Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! Kim Jong-il’s Guitars That Destroyed The World vs. Robert Fripp’s League of Crafty Guitarists in a winner takes all Steel Cage Death Match! Be There!

  8. I think people are just upset that these kids have accomplished more than they have. AND they did it with rationed electricity.

  9. Somehow I’m willing to bet that if there had been no reference to North Korea in the headline, everybody would think this was incredibly adorable.

  10. That’s the way it’s done. If only American kids could have as much sense slapped into them.

    I especially like the “leader” in the middle, she’s got what it takes.

  11. I can think of only one thing that would make this much worse; tiny matching mariachi suits and hats.

  12. Those kids are all better at playing than most local bands I’ve heard. This tells me one of two things: Either the bands here suck (which is quite possible), or these children have basically been groomed by the wacky North Korean regime to do nothing but play guitar. Either way it makes me feel bad. If these are the good ones, think of how many failed guitar trainees the North Koreans are keeping locked away somewhere?

  13. No matter whether this was from North Korea or not, I’d still be feeling just as creeped out as I am right now. Like a little row of guitar-playing JonBenet Ramsey music-wannabees.

    1. Indeed, if this was one of the many videos out of Japan of tykes playing musical instruments, people would be saying “How cute! How wonderful”.

  14. I don’t care what country they are from, I find this seriously disturbing. Those kids probably don’t even know what a ball is.

  15. i have a 4 year old daughter, and i can guarantee you that these kids are missing out on the chance to just “be a kid”. i find this video disturbing, no matter which country they come from. and no, it’s not any different than toddlers and tiaras, which is also disturbing. won’t someone think of the children?!

    1. Yeah, they probably don’t have an carefree childhood but compared to the average North Korean? Perhaps relatively good.

    2. It depends on their aptitudes and talents. My 4 year old would be happier than a pig in mud to be up there.

  16. How many of you speaking up so negatively against this take your children to church and teach them religious songs and bible verses?

    That’s no different than what you see on this video. Children will parrot whatever their parents indoctrinate into them, whether it’s good or bad. Teaching little Susie and Timmy to sing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ and recite the Lord’s Prayer is no different than these North Korean children doing what they’re doing.

    1. @#27 – There’s a difference of an hour of Sunday School a week and hours of music lessons and practice a day, to the exclusion of all else. And besides, it doesn’t take much talent or effort to sing “Jesus Loves Me”.

  17. There are tiny, talented freaks everywhere … just look at US talent shows. (or maybe not) …

    What I found misleading about the title somehow as that the kids might actually be SINGING a song in English … now THAT would have been interesting.

  18. I wonder how much disciplinary and emotional torture these kids had to endure to get to play like that. The little girl smiling in the center has the most painful of smiles …..poor things

  19. holy crap that’s creepy, and adorable. didn’t know children that age could have that kind of coordination. now i feel like i wasted my childhood :P

    i say they’re all 30 year olds who were the product of genetic experiments in finding eternal youth for the great leader

  20. Looks normal to me. Certainly more normal than Jon Benet and her ilk. Some kids can learn an instrument early. Isn’t there a long tradition in Asia of very young performers? Mozart composed and performed from the age of 5. Here’s a 6 year old performing at the White House. Here’s a 4 year old drummer. I think it’s nice that these kids, in the US and UK, have been encouraged to develop their talent.

  21. The only thing I found sad was the forced “fun” performance during the percussive hits at 1:42ish. It looks like they’ve found that rock and roll energy as they’re looking back and forth, about to bust it wide open with some genuine passion, and BOOM, back in line.

  22. Your child can do this too. Its called the Suzuki Method. You can begin with an instrument as young as 18 mo. – 2 yrs. The lessons are fun for the kids and these kids probably get lessons in school every day as soon as they show some talent. Why can’t many of American kids do this? Because parents are not willing to make our kids practice at home every day. Don’t feel sorry for the kids – look at all the attention they’re getting. They love it. My daughter used to love her recitals, and lessons were fun. The biggest challenge she faced was learning to read music.

    1. I am a Suzuki guitar parent and I have NEVER seen that kind of playing. There are many disturbing things about this. I think these kids are much older than they look – possibly middle school age. Their growth looks stunted. They are playing like robots and are not connecting with the music. Quite possibly the video is ‘edited’. Yes, it’s possible to learn to play an instrument at age 2 or 4 for some but not all children. However, children at that age behave differently when performing. Yes, I believe there is also alot of forced practice behind this video. The Asian culture does have a more disciplined approach to practice but this is over the top!! This is not natural! It is propaganda. Too bad this kids won’t be able to attend a summer Suzuki camp in the US and learn that music can be fun and enriching in a balanced and natural way.

      These children will have some serious problems if they continue with these large guitars. They should be on 1/4 or 1/8 sized guitars. I really do question the validity of what we are seeing.

  23. If you’ve followed even slightly the realities that we know of about North Korea, than OF COURSE this is beyond creepy. It’s not politics, it’s the reality of what the North Koreans are living under, thanks to their divined “Esteemed Leader”.

    It’s hard to see the talent and the adorableness when these children are living under in a brutal nightmare of a political system. It’s hard not to imagine the price they each of them paid (as well as their families) to be where they are now.

    Heck it’s hard to think they could produce enough electricity for the theater, let alone the broadcast, with massive blackouts all the time.

  24. While not quite as sad, I had similar feelings watching this Japanese kindergarten drum line. And there must be thousands of kids similarly engaged…

  25. I’m amazed at the comments from people who don’t see anything strange here. It can’t even be excused if you don’t know anything about North Korea (I’m quite well versed myself) – I mean, just look at them. It’s weird, and it’s creepy… nothing adorable here.

    Many of us I’m sure have seen videos, including amazing ones from e.g. Japan, of young kids playing music extremely well. This is nothing like those videos.

    I thought the comment regarding this like being boingboing bizarro world was hilarious, by the way :)

    1. So it’s creepy because I mean just look at them?
      Are they any weirder than any child up on a stage? Some of them really seem into the music.
      We probably agree that North Korea is a steaming pile of authoritarian socialistic failure and everyone involved in this production from the cameramen to the subjects in the audience are slaves to the state.
      But the kids are cute and maybe having some fun. Forgive those of us who enjoy their moment in the spotlight.
      Someday, if they ever get free of their rulers, they can watch this video and remember that one time they were happy and everyone applauded.

      1. they can watch this video and remember that one time they were happy and everyone applauded.

        Man, I hope so. I hope they don’t just remember it as that time they actually pulled off a performance without a hitch and thus avoided a caning and being sent to bed with no gruel.

  26. Due to malnutrition, dwarfism is rampant in North Korea.
    Fact is, these guys are all between the ages of 14 and 16.

  27. Think of the stuff we could learn if we weren’t commenting on blogs and checking Facebook every five minutes

  28. If this had been labeled “South Korean”, everyone would be cooing and awing over how adorable the whole thing was. Kids that young are capable of playing instruments and performing, and the fact that they do so well does not necessarily mean they are miserable. The North Korean regime is a monstrosity, but I’m willing to bet that people there have the capacity to be proud of their children and want them to learn and be talented.

  29. While this is typical in dictatorial countries, let me say that after visiting 44 countries, the next in line is the US. Maybe not state policy driven as North Korea, but rather parent driven.
    Likewise, I find very sad and pathetic the indoctrination of singing to a piece of cloth every morning that all these countries enforce in their children.

    1. re: “Likewise, I find very sad and pathetic the indoctrination of singing to a piece of cloth every morning that all these countries enforce in their children.”

      Yes – let us not instill a love of ones country into our children o_0. Assuming you meant the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem (or what ever other countries have).

      We should teach them to be cynical jerks who complain about everything and how where ever they live is shit, and other places are much, much better.

      1. Strange concept of love you have my friend… so when I see 6 years old in bus stops at 5:32AM in a -16 degrees Wisconsin to soon after swear eternal loyalty to a cloth is teaching them “instill a love of ones country” but if North Korea does the same and teaches them music is abuse… What is the difference?
        We don’t think where we live is “sh*t” not that US or Laos’s is either, like I mentioned, I’d been living in 44 countries; I can hand pick what is good and bad from each one of them without much of an issue.

        1. I am not sure what standing in the cold at an ungodly hour has to do with the price of hammers, or with the idea of national pride.

          Every country has their own traditions of national pride. You see it in spades at international soccer matches and the Olympics. It is a unique identifier and helps build cohesion among a mix of people with different backgrounds. I think there are many levels of pride or patriotism before you get to the level of Nationalism or a state ruled by propaganda.

          Do you think the protests and unrest in the Middle East would be possible with out national pride? They are waving their flags and singing their anthems.

  30. Oh! My god! The poor children! This is child abuse!

    You people are funny with your assumptions regarding these children. Learning to play an instrument well is fun and rewarding. I wish I had had such an opportunity when I was their age.

  31. What really creeps me out are the “smiles”. These kids must get face cramps after every performance. Still, the guitar playing is quite awesome.

  32. To see the truth in this video, you need to look at the size of the children,s heads versus the size of their bodies. These children are showing signs of long term malnutrition while being an example “to the masses”. Read the Book “Nothing to Envy” and you will only feel pity for those children.

  33. Young children have an amazing ability to assimilate musical instruction, and mostly by ear. Head on over to YouTube and search on Suzuki violin recital. Granted, the Suzuki kids are playing on fractional-sized instruments, so the sound quality is not quite up to a full-size violin. But the skill and virtuosity of a 5 year old playing, say, the Lully or Gossec Gavotte is impressive. And, how about this 11-year old tackling the Paganini here:

    There is an implicit assumption about oppression of these children based on the oppression of the regime. For these kids, I’m sure they are authentically having fun making music because for any child, the ability to get melody from an instrument is wonderment. Sadly, our education system has devalued the arts in general, and music education in particular (save militaristic marching bands).

  34. I live here in SOUTH Korea and this was on TV…these poor kids were “MADE” to learn and do this for Kim,Jong Il’s birthday… talented as they are, it’s hipocrasy at it’s ultimate to force children to do this for a specific reason instead of the love of music.

  35. I guess most of comentors are Americans, if I am wrong, pardon me.
    I don’t understand why you people are so negative about these kid’s performance, their lives, North Korean lives.
    If you want to be really really good at any thing, you must work very hard.
    These children did just those hard work to get this far.
    These are inocent children.
    I am sure they are proud of them selves.
    You know they are palying GUITARS, not ELECTRONIC GUITARs.
    American kids plays more electronic ones.
    An electronic instruments are you don’t need high skill, instruments work for you.
    But these kids play real thing, you must create sound using owm skill.

    1. There are many American children playing classical guitar much more beautifully than this robotic propoganda. I believe this video is intended to ridicule Americans. This is not Korean music.

    2. If you think electric guitars don’t take skill to play well, you don’t understand what the electronics are actually doing. Pick-ups are still responding the actual movement of the strings.

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