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FILE PHOTO: North Korean soldiers walking near Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province. (© Daily NK)

Amid a rise in violence among soldiers in the military, North Korea’s military recently ordered an end to beatings in boot camps based on concerns that such violence is driving more young people to dodge the draft.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Daily NK source in North Pyongan Province said Thursday that the security department of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) sent an order to all units, including boot camps, demanding an end to barracks beatings.

North Korean military authorities enrolled their spring batch of raw recruits last month and began training them in early April. The authorities appear to have ordered the eradication of beatings in boot camps because beatings occur every year during basic training, resulting in injuries – and even deaths – among new recruits.

For example, a teenage raw recruit who enlisted last fall right out of high school died from a beating he received from a higher-ranking soldier, the source said.

Suffering from poor food, psychological tension and frequent beatings, some soldiers lose their minds or, in the worst cases, die.

Barracks beatings are a long-standing problem in North Korea, but it has become an even bigger issue as the average age of raw recruits has risen in recent years.

Another source with knowledge of the situation inside the North Korean military said that “more people are enlisting at an older age than in the past because they want to study more,” and that “younger but higher-ranking soldiers often beat older raw recruits to bring them into line.”

In other words, more people are joining the military in their mid-20s after attending college or graduate school, making it harder for younger veteran soldiers to train them.

Moreover, with the introduction of new weapons since North Korea’s military authorities began their five-year defense development and weapons systems development plan after the Eighth Party Congress in January 2021, soldiers move around more as unit formations often change, exacerbating violence among soldiers.

“When soldiers are transferred to a new unit, they are often beaten by higher-ranking soldiers who have been in the unit longer,” the source said. “In the past few years, the beatings have become more frequent, as unit formations change frequently.”

Meanwhile, the main reason North Korean authorities issued their order to stamp out barracks violence is that recruitment is becoming increasingly difficult as young North Koreans dodge the draft.

Daily NK reported earlier that North Hwanghae Province has been unable to reach even 40% of its target number of recruits as the draft evasion has become more serious.

“It is the basic training period, but the state is worried because the troop strength is shrinking as the number of raw recruits is much lower than in the past,” said the source in North Pyongan Province. “Young people will enlist only if they are not beaten up in the army.”

Translated by David Carruth. Edited by Robert Lauler. 

Daily NK works with a network of sources living in North Korea, China, and elsewhere. Their identities remain anonymous for security reasons. For more information about Daily NK’s network of reporting partners and information-gathering activities, please visit our FAQ page here.

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