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“At the moment, the situation on the Korean Peninsula is tense, and America is being bad to us,” said Lt. Col. Kim Hak Bin, an administrator at the military academy. “But you can see that the students here look just as bright as usual, and life and classes are carrying on the same as before.

“Our students are ready to go to the front lines whenever a war breaks out, and they are now studying harder than usual,” he said Thursday.

The school, located near the birthplace of North Korea’s first leader, Kim Il Sung, was created in 1947 to house, feed and educate the sons and daughters of soldiers killed while fighting the Japanese who occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945.

Late leader Kim Jong Il attended the academy for eight months during the Korean War, school records show. His son, current leader Kim Jong Un, did not. His military education came from studying at the Kim Il Sung Military University next door.

During his 17-year rule, Kim Jong Il elevated the importance of the army and poured much of the nation’s meager resources into defense. Military life became an integral part of the North Korean identity.

The students here are being groomed to serve as the “core” of the Korean People’s Army, said biology teacher Ri Kyong Hui.

A visit to the military academy offered a peek into how young North Koreans learn to march and chant with such startling precision as displayed in parades held on major anniversaries.