As the North Korean authorities seek to instill an atmosphere of war, local reports are indicating that even young children under the age of 15 are being forced to request enlistment.
15-year old middle school students are being forced to sign petitions for enlistment which state, ‘I will volunteer to join the People’s Army to protect my country.’ The country appears to be moving towards lowering the minimum age for enrollment.
“Youth from all over the country and university students have submitted petitions for enrollment or reenlistment, and even 15-year-old students are signing the forms. The petitions are being signed under forcible and coercive pressure from the North Korean authorities,” a source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK on August 20.
The regime appears to be seeking an increase in the number of residents who are allegedly willing to fight to the death as tension between the US and North Korea escalates. North Korea’s state-run publication, Rodong Sinmun, claimed on August 12 that over 3 million people had voluntarily applied for enlistment, running counter to actual situation on the ground.
At the same time, by forcing young students to sign the enlistment petition, the regime is attempting to encourage loyalty amongst the younger generation.
“The regime has not been providing enough food for its army, leaving many soldiers suffering from malnutrition and attempting desertion. For this reason, students do not aspire to serve in the army,” the source said.
To bolster enlistment figures, the North Korean authorities have been trying various tactics. For example, the physical standards in regards to height and weight have been recently discarded so that the vast majority of individuals are accepted regardless of their physical state, unless they have a serious disease.
North Korea’s enrollment protocol for its People’s Army registers citizens on a conscription list at the age of 14. Upon turning 16, most youths undergo two physical examinations at the Military People’s Hospital and at the Provincial People’s Hospital. To pass the examination, a minimum height of 150 cm in height and weight of 48 kg was previously required, but the standard has been steadily reduced to its current requirements of 137 cm and 43 kg.
There are conflicting responses from local residents regarding whether the authorities actually intend to recruit the 15-year-old students that are being forced to request enlistment.
“Some argue that because 15-year-old students still need to receive their 12 years of compulsory education it would contradict Kim Jong Un’s own rules. But others argue that he doesn’t care about such things,” a separate source in Ryanggang Province said.
“Most of the residents are unhappy about the attempts to drive young students into thinking about war. If the authorities indeed force these 15-year-old students to join the army, they will face significant opposition from the people.”