Sources in North Korea are reporting that the authorities are preparing another push to collect rice for the armed forces this fall. However, in contrast to previous years, this time the order has been issued to the military itself. Ordinary citizens have in the past been assigned the task of gathering these provisions, but the responsibility this year has fallen on military conscripts.
“Military leadership handed down orders last month detailing the quotas required to be collected by the local 12th Corp. These orders include amounts covering every division and brigade in the entire 12th Corp, which must be collected and presented to division leaders in the coming season,” a source in Ryanggang Province informed Daily NK on October 18.
“It is quite absurd that military personnel have to collect these provisions themselves. And such orders were handed down in all provinces, covering all military divisions across the country.”
The source says that soldiers are complaining about the plan, especially given the government’s failure to distribute goods, even to the military in recent times.
“Is there any other country on Earth that does not feed its own military? I thought the army was supposed to be defending our country, but instead they’re turning us into an army of farmers,” one serviceman told the source.
The North Korean regime began emphasizing the importance of feeding its military as a national priority after the Great Famine of the mid 90s. Kim Jong Il introduced the concept of songun (military-first) ideology, stating that “our nation’s armed forces must never go hungry!”
Citizens who thereafter did not contribute the required quota of rice were excluded from what was left of the state distribution system. State organizations were also mobilized to collect food for the military, and those who did not satisfy the requirements were stripped of their political status and other perks. As a result, many had no choice but to eat significantly less in order to contribute their quota to the state.
But even these provisions were insufficient to feed the entire military. During the mid 2000s, the government hoped to solve the food shortage by allowing military members to cultivate small private gardens for personal consumption. The recent directive, however, seems to be an attempt by the authorities to absorb some of these stocks as well.
According to a source in North Hamgyong Province, military members are complaining that they “must begin large-scale farming from next year” in order to meet these new demands, calling the plan just another “government scheme.”