The North Korean military will be providing its officers with only 10 days of food rations per month for the next six months, Daily NK has learned. 

Daily NK military sources reported on Apr. 1 that the order to reduce food rations to just 10 days per month was handed down on the morning of Mar. 30. The new order means that the families of military officers will get only one-third of the food they received before. 

Sources told Daily NK that the new order reflects the regime’s attempts to minimize costs and supplies as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to plague the country’s economy. 

“The authorities are trying to instill the idea among military officers that they will have to live frugally to preserve supplies for wartime,” one source explained. 


Many military officers reported reacted with shock to the new order given that the regime’s food distribution system had allowed them to eke by despite the country’s difficult economic circumstances. Their concern is also based on the fact that North Korea’s food supplies are traditionally poor during what is called the “spring austerity season.” 

“Economic sanctions had long decreased the supply of food being distributed, but this sudden cut in food supplies has naturally led to complaints,” another military source told Daily NK. “Some officers are saying that the coronavirus situation has left them deprived.” 

Military officers are not allowed to engage in business activities, nor are they able to fully engage in smuggling over the Chinese border, which has been curtailed following the spread of COVID-19, Daily NK sources explained. 

“If they engage in market activities, they’re at risk of being dismissed from their positions, but at the same time they cannot just watch their families starve. They’re not in an enviable position,” the source said. 

“Ultimately, the new order to reduce food rations will lead to less loyalty among the officer class toward the regime,” he speculated.

Daily NK sources also reported that military officers are anxious to know whether the food rations will be back to normal by October. Some officers have expressed hopes that by that time the harvests will allow the military to hand out food as usual. Some have even expressed hope that the celebrations surrounding the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea on Oct. 10 will bring gifts. 

Others, however, are reportedly concerned that the country’s economic situation will only worsen if the coronavirus situation continues. 


Ordinary soldiers continue to receive food rations as before, Daily NK sources further reported. 

“The authorities likely believe that keeping the rank-and-file well-fed is key to keeping them healthy given that many of them are still young,” one source said. 

“Of course, keeping them fed will also prevent desertions and prevent the military order from falling apart,” he added.

*Translated by Violet Kim

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Jeong Tae Joo is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. He focuses on North Korean military matters. Please direct any questions about his articles to