North Korea 'one of the saddest places on earth' - ex-teacher

A journalist and author who spent six months teaching English in North Korea has spoken of the abuse and ideology the school system in the rogue nation puts on its students.

Suki Kim, who was born in South Korea, was a teacher at a school for sons of North Korea's elite in 2011 during the last months of Kim Jong Il's reign.

She noticed the abuse of young men, who would now be the leaders of the country alongside Kim Jong-Un.

"What I found shocking was how much more abuse and absolute tight control they lived under," Ms Kim told CNN.

"[The school] was a place that was guarded by the military [with] absolute surveillance, meaning every move is watched by the minders and every lesson was [planned and approved] by the North Koreans."

Ms Kim, who is the author of Without You, There Is No Us, My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite, adds that the students are kept in a buddy system environment at all times.

"There really was no room for individuality or freedom or thought," she says.

While restrictions on the students were tight, Ms Kim took the daring step to give her students the opportunity to open up and write a letter about their feelings and thoughts.

"They actually talked about having girlfriends or missing their mothers," Ms Kim explained to CNN.

"In some ways they were just like other 19 or 20-year-old young people anywhere but in this other way they were also there to be the soldiers of the regime because all they ever do is serve the great leader."

Ms Kim says students are curious but they have to be careful.

"Every North Korean has to attend a weekly meeting where they report on each other so whatever they [do] during the week will be reported," she says.