Ahead of the upcoming annual joint military
exercises between South Korea and the United States, North Korea has been
ardently encouraging its young population to volunteer for military service and
pressuring all discharged former gunners under the age of 40 to re-enlist in the army.
On March 2, Daily NK spoke with a source
from South Pyongan Province who informed us that mass meetings and a petition
movement expressing opposition to the joint ROK-US military training exercise
have been taking place across the country, including Pyongyang. The regime has
been encouraging all youth–from middle school up to the university level– to
volunteer for military service and has proposed that all those who have been
discharged but are under 40 get back into their fatigues.
According to our source, a similar command
was issued a short time ago from the National Defense Commission , and since
then the provincial military mobilization units have been interviewing workers
who meet the requirements for re-enlistment one by one. “Only those who have a
missing person or an inmate at a kyohwaso [re-education camps, which function
as prisons] among their family members are exempted,” the source said.
He added that the provincial commissions
have been gathering local residents and telling them the message relayed by the
National Defense Commission, which is that modern warfare is artillery warfare,
and that “every citizen who is a gunner is expected to do their share in
fighting the war for reunification.”
However, re-enlistment has not yet been
formally taking place. Although the interviews have supposedly been completed,
workers interviewed have not been re-enlisted, but rather placed on standby.
Within the Military Manpower Commission, it is being said that once the current
regular recruitment period, which runs from the end of March until the middle
of April, has finished, it will continue in its current fashion depending on
how political circumstances play out.
Naturally, complaints have followed the
mobilizations. “A lot of people say how unfair it is that ‘rhetoric bombs,’ favored by the
authorities in response to the ROK-US joint exercises, only effectively harass the domestic population,” the source pointed out.
Regarding Korean Central News Agency’s [KCNA] claim that recruitment in response to the call to arms has already reached 1.5
million, an additional source in Ryanggang Province said that although it may
appear the young are spontaneously joining the military from a desire to
protect the country, the reality on the ground tells a far different story.
Pointedly she noted, “When the
nation is swept away by the fervor to join the military, those who do not
respond will be seen as having ideological problems, so who wouldn’t join? The
youth of this country has long said that they would much rather study
technology or enter university than join the military, so why (else) would
there be this sudden change of heart?”