On November 13, a North Korean soldier was shot while defecting to the South through the Joint Security Area. Through this incident, the world learned more about the reality of the North Korean military.
It has been widely reported that North Korean soldiers are suffering from malnutrition and disease from inadequate food supplies and poor living conditions, but the situation appears to have grown worse under the Kim Jong Un regime.
“During the Kim Jong Il era, ‘military-first politics’ made food and supplies for the military a top priority,” a source well versed in North Korean military affairs told Daily NK on November 28. “But after Kim Jong Un came to power, material support for the military dropped.”
The source added that although 800g of food is supposed to be supplied to each soldier, after the process of transportation, only 700g is supplied per day. And even those rations are often substituted with potatoes or cornmeal, depending on the region.
“After Kim Jong Un took over, not even moldy corn is being supplied. To increase the supply of food, soldiers are eating boiled corn that hasn’t been properly cleaned. So an increasing number of soldiers are suffering from diarrhea and losing weight,” he said.
Sanitary conditions are also said to be worsening. A separate source with knowledge of the issue said that due to a water supply problem, soldiers are suffering from all sorts of infectious diseases from tuberculosis to pneumonia after eating out of dirty bowls. “Poor sanitary conditions within the military is the basic reason why soldiers are suffering from all kinds of diseases,” he explained.
“Soap, toothpaste, and a toothbrush used to be supplied at least, but now even that has become an issue. Soldiers are now using salt to brush their teeth and are washing their clothes without soap.” After ten years of military service, even a healthy soldier returns home with a range of illnesses from poor nutrition and sanitation, he added.
Most troops have become self-sufficient in terms of food supplies during the Kim Jong Un era. Looking over to North Korea from the general outpost (GOP) on the South Korean side, one can often see North Korean soldiers farming during the day.