N. Korean military releases new rules for military drivers

Military drivers express discontent over being forced to run errands for officers and their families

In reaction to a fatal car accident in early November, the North Korean military has released new regulations for army vehicles drivers. Sources notified Daily NK on Friday about the new directive. It was issued on Nov. 10 and pertains to all drivers in the army – including chauffeurs of public officials as well as reservists.

Daily NK has acquired a copy of the new order. The instructions are held “simple,” like “Drivers must carry licenses and transit passes with them at all times.” Other rules demand, for instance, that drivers adhere to common safety standards, such as being aware of other road users or refraining from smoking, eating and chatting while driving.

Certain instructions are explained in great detail. The principle “Drivers must only drive vehicles conforming to their license category,” for example, even comes with a lists of vehicles soldiers are not permitted to drive.

The rules were made in a joint effort by the military’s general staff and its logistics division. All drivers are furthermore required to attend educational sessions, learn about the dangerous consequences of traffic offenses and memorize every single line of the directive.

ACCIDENT IN EARLY NOVEMBER LED TO NEW RULES

Sources told Daily NK the new regulations came as a reaction to a fatal car accident in Pyongyang’s Sosong district. According to them, a driver of the People’s Armed Forces (MPAF) ran over a fellow soldier on Nov. 2.

The MPAF driver, a man in his 30s, had assisted the wife of his superior officer with her shopping during his shift. Sources say the soldier had a couple of alcoholic drinks at the officer’s house, before he decided to drive to his residence in the Tongdaewon district at around 10 PM. Not only was he intoxicated, but he also reportedly smoked a cigarette behind the wheel.

When the soldier pulled onto the MPAF’s base, he ignored the warning signs of a nearby guard, sped up and made a sharp turn. He thereby collided with a 45-year-old general staff member on the sidewalk, who was killed instantly.

North Korean authorities have now arrested the perpetrator. According to sources, the family of the deceased has called for the dishonorable discharge of the accident driver from both the military and the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK). Primarily, however, they want him to be sentenced to death.

BLOWBACK FOR LAX RULES

Military drivers, on the other hand, reportedly see the superior officer at fault, who, they say, shouldn’t have served alcohol to the driver in the first place.

Daily NK sources also revealed reoccurring abuses of office by high-ranking military staff. “More than 90% of the time, drivers of officers are forced to act as private chauffeurs when they – or their families – want to run errands,” they said. “Perhaps, the officer shouldn’t have used him as his personal driver.” 

Another source argued that aspiring soldiers are unable to turn down an officer’s request – they need the favorable support of an officer to join the WPK or get into university. Saying “no” to an unreasonable order, however, would most likely end their career.

*Translated by Violet Kim and edited by Laura Geigenberger

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