AWOL and Hungry Soldiers Making Trouble

The North Korean authorities have stepped up attempts to stop soldiers in and around Hyesan from going AWOL and stealing from local people to supplement their increasingly inadequate rations, according to information provided by a source yesterday.

The source from the Yangkang Province capital told The Daily NK, “They are hungry and the weather is getting colder, and so the number of soldiers deserting their posts is rising. Therefore, Military Police (MPs) have been stationed here and there on the streets to deal with it. They work from 8AM to 7PM, checking the identification documents of soldiers coming and going one by one.”

“In particular, a lot of soldiers from the Driver Training School under Area Command in Gapsan are going AWOL,” the source also claimed, adding, “They are going to local houses stealing from them and attacking passers-by.”

“There have been many incidents (muggings and robberies) around the rarely-frequented ‘Ollokgul’ (a railway tunnel next to the Yalu River) between Hyesan and Weeyeon, so they decided to focus the crackdown there and MP soldiers are doing so now,” the source added. Due to its location, Ollokgul has long been a place known for muggings and robberies. A necessary part of transit through the area, it is dark and inhospitable, a perfect place for such crimes.

Meanwhile, the fundamental cause of the rising number of soldiers leaving their posts is a fundamental lack of state distribution to the military. The Chosun People’s Army is supposed to provide soldiers with 800g of food per day. However, that has reportedly shrunk to only around 540g, while the quality of side dishes has dropped drastically too, to just salted radish.

“Even the Driver Training School, which used to get reasonable distribution, has had no distribution of daily necessities for the students since this June,” the source explained. “Besides that, their meals are 80% corn, 20% rice and for one meal they only get about 170g of food, so the hungry soldiers are heading for local farms and downtown to steal additional stuff.”

“Deserters are stealing clothes and shoes and stuff at random from occupied houses in broad daylight; anything that can be sold in the jangmadang,” the source lamented. “They go around in groups of three or four attacking people seven, eight times a day.”

In one recent case, the source said that the home of a worker for an engine repair company in the Songbong 1-dong area of Hyesan was invaded by soldiers. The group killed the man of the house and stole electrical goods including a TV and fan, an incident which caused great disquiet among local people.