Yanggak Island Discs - The Song of the Korean Children’s Union and symbols of the Young Pioneers in North Korea.
The March of the Young Pioneers
‘The March of the Young Pioneers’ (소년단행진곡 | 少年団行進曲) is the anthem of the Korean Children’s Union. The union made up of the ‘Young Pioneers’.
Who are the Young Pioneers?
The Young Pioneers in North Korea are the country’s socialist youth movement for children in elementary and middle school. Every school in the country has their own chapter and there are a number of children’s camps, including one at Songdowon near Wonsan and another at Mt. Myohyang.
The March of the Young Pioneers | Young Pioneers song
The song dates back to 1946, just after the division of Korea and prior to the establishment of the DPRK when the Soviet Union held considerable sway in northern Korea. Two Soviet influences are apparent in the Young Pioneers song.
The first is the crimson necktie of the Young Pioneers. While this red design has its origins in the USSR, the word used in Korean has a different origin. In Korean, it’s not a scarf, it’s not a bandana or cravat; it’s literally a necktie (넥타이). This usage likely comes from the Japanese (ネクタイ) and as in usage in Korea (as well as Pyongyang) since at least the early 1920’s.
It is a common misconception that the Korean language as spoken in North Korea contains no foreign loanwords. North Korean’s use a number of words of English origin in everyday speech, such as ‘bus’ (버스) and ‘eskimo’ (에스키모), the latter of which is a type of ice cream.
Compared to South Korea, foreign loanwords are relatively rare, but still do make their way into regular use, particularly in the sciences, information technology, consumer products, and equipment.
The second is the motto of the Young Pioneers, ‘Always Ready!’. This derives from the Russian (Всегда готов!). The original Russian motto itself reflects the global scout movement’s ‘Be Prepared’.
The March of the Young Pioneers Today
All North Korean schoolchildren learn and sing The March of the Young Pioneers across North Korea.
Over time, the song lyrics of ‘The March of the Young Pioneers’ have undergone a number of changes, namely to reflect the position of the DPRK’s leaders in society. The song is, thus, a living political document. Despite the changes over the years, it still has maintained the reference to a fluttering crimson necktie.
You can listen to the song on Youtube:
Or read more about the history of the Young Pioneers on the Koryo Tours Blog.