North Korea recently recruited at least 100 of the most capable graduates from the country’s top technology-related universities to join the command centers of the military, Daily NK has learned. 

The recruitment comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un mentioned the deployment of a “new strategic weapon” at a plenary session of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) held late last year.

“The Supreme Commander [Kim Jong Un] ordered that the most capable graduates from the country’s top engineering schools enter the 32nd and 35th divisions of the each military branch’s command,” a North Korean military source told Daily NK on May 15, noting that military cadre departments placed them into the military commands on May 10. 

The 32nd and 35th divisions are specialized departments that manage the military’s intranet network, which handles information regarding all military operations, tactical planning systems, day-to-day operations and documents concerning military operations. 

Their recruitment into the military commands may be related to broader efforts to ensure the military has what it needs to conduct “modern military warfare.” 

The graduates were all students who received high marks at the Kim Chaek University of Technology, the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, and the department of automation at the Pyongsong Institute of Science. They also have certified expertise in computer programming.

All of those selected were given the titles “staff officer” (참모) and “senior lieutenant” (상위, a North Korean-specific military title that is a step lower than the South Korean military title of “captain” or 대위). 


According to the source, the family’s of the new recruits were largely ordinary laborers and farmers, not government cadres or members of the elite. This may reflect the urgent need for technical expertise in the military, regardless of family background. 

Many of the recruits are young and in their mid-20s, which also may reflect Kim Jong Un’s broader efforts to enact “generational change” – namely by cultivating a loyal group of individuals in his government from the younger generation. 

The source pointed out that the new recruits could form a basis to strengthen the country’s asymmetric warfare capabilities – including the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM).

“Many [in the military] have pointed out the need to improve the military’s ‘internal system,’ despite agreement that there is an important need to address technical problems associated with [new] weapons,” the source said. 

“[Kim Jong Un’s] idea is that putting young, talented people in leadership positions will allow the country to rapidly develop good-quality weapons,” the source continued, adding that approximately 100 graduates were recruited and that they will be handling various duties at military command centers underground.

*Translated by Jason Bartlett

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