N. Korean military delays discharge notice due to COVID-19

February discharge announcements are generally reserved for soldiers with wealthy or powerful family backgrounds

North Korea’s military announced the year’s first discharge announcement two weeks later than normal due to the spread of COVID-19, Daily NK has learned.

Daily NK sources reported that the delay in the announcement by an administrative agency under the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces (MPAF) was mainly due to concerns over COVID-19.

“There were concerns that no announcement meant that no one would be getting a discharge this year,” a South Hamgyong Province-based source told Daily NK on Feb. 24.

“But the authorities made the announcement and soldiers who received a discharge received their discharge orders and headed home,” he added.

North Korea typically announces military discharges twice a year. The first announcement, which typically occurs in early February, hands down discharges to soldiers who have been recommended for entry into universities or professional programs. The second announcement occurs in early October and typically discharges soldiers who have fulfilled their full 10 years of service.

Daily NK sources said that the spread of COVID-19 infections in North Korea was a major reason behind the delay in the announcement. The country’s military leadership was reportedly split on whether to send discharged soldiers back home given the spread of the disease.

Ultimately, the military decided to announce the discharges two weeks later than normal and all soldiers on the list were discharged, sources said.

“Most of those discharged in the first round are typically the children of powerful or wealthy families who have received recommendations for entry into schools,” a source said. “They had to provide significant amounts of bribes to get these recommendations, which are managed by the country’s Ministry of Education and are limited in number.”

Soldiers with wealthy or powerful family backgrounds are allowed to enter university even if they have not yet completed their entire military service, he added.

A number of soldiers and officers affiliated with the 7th Corps, which is stationed in South Hamgyong Province, were reportedly discharged from the military despite not having completed the full term of their military service.

Such practices are so common in North Korea that ordinary soldiers reportedly paid little attention to the discharge announcement.

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