There are increasing reports of looting by soldiers in the wake of recent news that the North Korean authorities have ordered the military to acquire its own food supplies.
A source in Ryanggang Province informed Daily NK on November 2 about an incident in the Kapsan region, where “soldiers from the 43rd Brigade raided the fields one night in the beginning of October. They all gathered for the surprise attack, fanned out across the farms and swept up all the corn.”
“It’s not an everyday occurrence for the 43rd Brigade to go around plundering the farms, but they have become much more brazen this year,” he added.
The source explained that the cause of the recent pillaging can be traced directly to orders issued by the authorities for soldiers to ‘begin gathering the military’s food supplies this fall.’
The 43rd Brigade stationed near Kapsan is a special unit of the North Korean military. It was first established as a special forces unit trained in mountain warfare and night combat, tasked with protecting historical battlegrounds and Kim family ‘revolutionary sites’ from South Korean stealth attacks.
Kim Jong Il once observed the 43rd Brigade’s ski training, during which he proclaimed his “reassured spirit” and presented the unit with commendations.
But even as a special military unit personally commended by the “Dear Leader,” the government’s failure to distribute provisions has led to the unit’s deterioration.
“It’s a disgrace that soldiers are stealing food because they are hungry, but we should not blame the soldiers entirely. The problem is that the regime does not feed its own military, which means that pillaging will only continue,” the source said.
Organized plundering of fields by soldiers has become a frequent occurrence across all regions of North Korea – so much so that the people have begun referring to the military as the “Suppression Forces,” the “Bandit Army,” and the “Makhno Army” – alluding to a Ukrainian anarchist from Soviet times that the North Korean people understand to be an infamous pillager. Though the regime refers to the armed forces as an ‘army of the people’ and an “army of justice,” reality suggests that the country’s armed forces are critically undersupplied.
“During the Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il eras, the military at least feigned complete loyalty to the leader and the party, but these days they only worry about finding food and earning money. It doesn’t really matter if your military is 1 or 2 million-people-strong if almost none of them are actually following proper military routine,” a separate source in Ryanggang Province explained.
“After liberation (from Japan), Kim Il Sung promised land to the young people and started the (Korean War), but now it’s all just Kim Jong Un’s land, and people don’t feel loyalty to the regime. These days, young soldiers say that ‘if war breaks out again, the first thing we will do is loot the banks in Seoul.”
With no provisions from the government and facing the arduous task of gathering their own supplies, discipline among soldiers is said to be rapidly deteriorating, while criminal activity is reaching new levels. Continued neglect of the military is likely to result in further loss of confidence among the people.