North Korean military authorities are reportedly forcing ordinary people in North Hamgyong Province’s Musan County to give clothing to soldiers because they are unable to properly provide them with winter outfits.

In a phone call with Daily NK on Wednesday, a source in the province said authorities commenced a military “support program” aimed at residents of Musan County from Jan. 8. Essentially, the program involves ordering families to contribute one pair each of winter pants and thick underwear.

According to the source, the order specified that people provide the highest quality items they wear. He added that while people have taken part in past wintertime programs to support soldiers with food or socks, “it is rare to force people to provide alternative uniforms like [the authorities are demanding] this year.”

North Korea provides soldiers with winter clothing every November, but has often been unable to properly do so due to economic difficulties. Accordingly, it has been easy to spot soldiers wearing patched-up uniforms.

There have even been such absurdities as people feeding leftover cloth from uniform or shoe factories into pulverizers to soften it up like cotton for use in clothing. 

North Korean soldiers
North Korean soldiers seen walking near Namyang, North Hamgyong Province. / Image: Daily NK

However, the situation this year has grown worse. The closure of the border due to COVID-19 has closed off imports of cloth and shutdown production of winter clothing.

“During the Arduous March of the 1990s, [the authorities] couldn’t properly supply soldiers with daily necessities and many young soldiers lost their lives due to malnutrition,” said the source. “If the current situation continues, we’ll see worse difficulties than we experienced during the Arduous March.”

Locals find the order to give up their best winter clothing outrageous, the source said. 

“With locals suffering from a lack of food due to COVID-19, many people were unable to wear new clothing on New Year’s Day,” said the source. “They are speechless, wondering how they are going to find the winter underwear to send to the military when they can barely make a living.”

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