The North Korean authorities have ramped up ideological and military training since the beginning of the month, but reports have emerged that they are not distributing the necessary food or supplies for soldiers involved in the exercises, causing morale to plummet.
“The 12th Army Corps began exercises on the first of the month, but the leading commander said during opening inspections that he had merely received orders to carry out the drills, but had not received any accompanying provisions – quite the disconcerting welcome,” a source in Ryanggang Province informed Daily NK on December 5.
“After this, the soldiers were taken through the ideological and physical drills and told to express their enthusiasm for becoming ‘young heroes of the nation,’ but their reactions were lukewarm at best.”
Soldiers typically look forward to the beginning of these drills each December 1, as they are usually provided with a reasonable meal, but this year it appears that the authorities have neglected to provide the food supplies and have instead focused solely on demanding loyalty from the soldiers.
Official teachings of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il state that the political work of the nation is to take care of the people, and that people must be well-fed if they are to be successful.
During the height of the Songun or military-first era under Kim Jong Il, military members would gather together with local residents in the town square on the first day of the exercises, and the locals would provide material support for the military. Soldiers were eager to participate in the drills since they could expect relatively abundant food provisions.
But the source explained that these days, with worsening economic conditions under Kim Jong Un’s policies, civilians are unable to provide the military with enough supplies, and the central government is failing to do so as well. Kim continues to promote the importance of being a “nuclear nation,” but in reality, discipline within the military is deteriorating.
“It does not seem that the drills will have any effect on strengthening the soldiers’ morale or fighting capabilities. The authorities have to feed the soldiers before they will be able to fight the enemy,” an additional source in Ryanggang Province said.
Daily NK reported on a similar situation this past August, where soldiers and other contributors to Kim Jong Un’s ICBM development efforts expressed disappointment after receiving lackluster gifts.