A source within North Korea has revealed to Daily NK that political education classes for the Chosun People’s Army have been extended from 12 to 19 hours a week in what the source sees as an effort to increase unity within the military.
The order to extend ideological instruction apparently came from the General Political Bureau of the Ministry of Peoples’ Armed Forces in early September. Following as it did the late Colonel Muammar Qadhafi’s escape from the Libyan capital Tripoli in the middle of August, this points to the possibility that the beginning of the Libyan leader’s end had a part to play in the nervy North Korean regime’s decision.
The source claims that all military units were handed new schedules for political education at that time, stating, “Every week commissioned officers get extra materials to conduct classes and enlisted soldiers have had their basic hours extended from 12 to 19.”
In reality this means that the classes, which used to be for two hours every day from Monday to Saturday, have now been extended to three hours, with the 30 minutes each morning previously allotted for reading and interpreting party policy and the works of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il extended to 40 minutes.
Commanding officers have had their own classes covering the correct method of instructing subordinates bumped up from three or four times a month to twice a week. These classes are to help them become acquainted with the guidance materials sent down from Pyongyang.
So-called ‘political commissars’ attached to companies follow the guidelines of the General Political Bureau in carrying out political education. Given their license to assess the ‘appropriateness’ of company commanders, in many ways they occupy a role more influential than that of commanders themselves.
The source claims that Special Forces were the guinea pigs for the new policy, with Marine Corps, specialist security forces and guidance department troops getting the first taste of the new orders.
The ideological training of ordinary soldiers is said to involve interpretation of Rodong Shinmun editorials, which serve as the main de facto public mouthpiece for official opinion, along with ideological ‘debate’ sessions.
“At the end of October we began studying a piece from the Rodong Shinmun called ‘We are all Descendants of Kim Il Sung’, and have been had debate sessions regarding another article which was about how to make our lives even better than they already are,” the source explained.
“A stationed officer from the Political Bureau sits in on the debate sessions and plays the role of a facilitator, making sure everything goes smoothly. They are drumming up excitement within these sessions by giving a day’s holiday to the best participants,” said the source.
Interestingly, meanwhile, the source added that the state is still choosing not to report on the death of Gaddafi or other Libya news, while “Most soldiers think the ramping up of political studies is some sort of preparation for winter training.”
Every year North Korea holds winter training from December 1 until June. On top of ideological education, training also involves marching, shooting, martial arts, war strategy and other drills.