North Korean military authorities have launched an investigation of the “nutritional status” of soldiers ahead of the winter training period, which lasts from December to March.

According to a Daily NK source in the North Korean military yesterday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued an order on Oct. 9 calling for improvements in “logistics and soldiers’ health” during October and November. This is the period when the military is preparing for the winter months and for winter training. 

The General Political Bureau and Ministry of Defense have responded with a joint inspection of the state of training preparation and logistical readiness, including wintertime food supplies, within all branches of the military, along with the state of “frailty” among soldiers due to malnutrition. 

Kim has stressed “autonomous solutions” to soldiers’ “nutritional issues” since handing down an order in May for the establishment of convalescent hospitals to treat soldiers suffering from malnutrition. The hospitals were established following a joint report by the Ministry of Defense’s logistics department and military medical department warning of significant numbers of soldiers missing training due to serious malnutrition issues.

The interim inspection appears aimed at resolving soldiers’ nutrition issues ahead of the winter training period as part of efforts to maximize military strength.

Accordingly, the Ministry of Defense’s relevant departments, including the Provisions Bureau, Clothing Bureau, General Logistics Bureau and Military Health Bureau, have been quick to act. Seven-person inspection teams sent to each military unit have been carrying out their duties since Oct. 12.

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North Korean soldiers walking near Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province. / Image: Daily NK

The teams must complete their reports by late November, examining the “rations issue” at their units and weighing soldiers. To deal with the “rations issue,” the teams are checking if units provide their soldiers with bean powder mixed in water three times a day and pureed soybean soup four times a week.

This is reportedly the first time ever that the military has announced it will closely examine bean supplies and inspect how frequently beans are served. This suggests the authorities are urgently trying to remove a major impediment to military readiness, given the important role the military plays in weapons development and constructing national facilities.

The authorities also plan to implement “working-level measures” to allow the military to resolve logistical problems through “self-reliance” and continue fixing these issues into the winter training period.

North Korean soldiers say, however, that individual units cannot solve food shortages on their own. For example, soldiers at the April 24 Training Ground have been farming plots for the past two years, but bean harvests have been poor. Accordingly, the amount of beans they can send to the newly established convalescent hospitals is also insufficient.

No part of the North Korean military can ignore the lack of food. Not only have the inspections been personally ordered by Kim Jong Un, but there are also rumors that the North Korean leader’s powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, will be scrutinizing food supply problems “until the very end.”

“With the start of the inspection, the price of beans has skyrocketed in the markets of Chongju, North Pyongan Province, where the April 25 Training Ground is located,” said the source. “As recently as Oct. 5, beans were KPW 4,300 a kilogram. Now they’ve shot up to KPW 5,000 a kilogram.”

Accordingly, the price of bean curd and bean sprouts have also climbed, making it even more difficult for locals to afford these items, added the source.

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