A source in North Korea told Daily NK that North Korean authorities have recently begun to force the families of soldiers to take part in relief efforts to flood-ravaged areas of the country. 

The source, who is in the North Korean military, told Daily NK last Wednesday that the General Political Bureau (GPB) recently ordered the families of soldiers to actively take part in relief efforts. The order was issued to political and family guidance departments of each branch of the military. 

The GPB also reportedly ordered soldiers and their families to form labor brigades and provide labor and “material support” to areas close to their bases and nearby construction sites in flood-affected areas, noting that the results of their relief efforts will be subject to “an evaluation” prior to Party Foundation Day on Oct. 10. 

The GPD order stressed, however, that the directive is “not a demand or form of coercion” but should be carried out “thoroughly on the basis of one’s own volition,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Farmland, houses, public buildings, roads, bridges, railways and power plants in North Korea suffered immense damage this past summer as the country was struck by a series of floods and typhoons.

Rodong Sinmun reported on Sept. 6 that Kim Jong Un had visited storm-ravaged areas of South Hamgyong Province. / Image: Rodong Sinmun

In response, the army has deployed a large number of troops to perform restoration work even in the middle of the summer military drills period (which typically stretches from July to September). The regime went into so-called “battle” mode by even calling up party members in Pyongyang to help with the relief efforts. Party members across the country are also being forced to provide “material support” to the relief efforts. 

The recent order for the families of soldiers to get involved in the relief efforts fits within this broader context. It can be viewed as yet another iteration of the way North Korea exerts control over society, namely the idea that “hardship can be overcome through the creation of [role] models.” 

“All available manpower is being mobilized so that [the authorities] can tout their achievements by Oct. 10,” the source told Daily NK. 

The pressure exerted by the authorities on the families of soldiers to take part in relief efforts – as exemplified by their threat to review the results of their work – has led many of them to form labor brigade work units (called “soldier family platoons”) throughout the country. They have immediately been put to work in areas near their bases and on reconstruction efforts in flood-ravaged areas. Those families living in areas of the country that did not suffer heavy damage from the floods, meanwhile, are providing “material support” to broader relief efforts. 

The families of top military officers are reportedly being pressured to supply massive amounts of supplies to the relief efforts. They are, in fact, engaged in a competition of sorts given that they do not want to be seen as “lagging behind” other officers in providing support. 

“The wife of the head of a Ministry of State Security office in one area of the country provided three tons of corn to flood-affected regions,” the source told Daily NK. “Many families of cadres are offering rice or grain by the ton if they have the capacity to do so.”

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Jeong Tae Joo is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. He focuses on North Korean military matters. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.