As tensions have risen on the Korean Peninsula due to North Korea’s recent missile launches, North Korean soldiers mobilized to work on farms near their military bases have been ordered to maintain combat readiness, local sources report.
“North Korean soldiers have been mobilized to nearby military-run farms during the farming season. They are required to maintain combat readiness even though they are out on the fields,” a source in North Hamgyong Province reported.
“The soldiers generally set up tents near the fields because there is no permanent accommodation available. They have to wear their uniforms and carry their weapons even during breaks or when sleeping.”
Maintaining combat readiness is, however, not thought to be directly related to the recent missile tests North Korea has conducted; rather, it is aimed at ensuring discipline among North Korean soldiers.
Discipline among young soldiers mobilized to the farms has fallen by the wayside with more lax regulations over what they wear, frequent contact with civilians, and a spate of crop robberies. Under the belief that such issues are having a negative effect on discipline within the military, the authorities have required that soldiers wear their uniforms and carry weapons in the fields.
“Soldiers at a base in Chongjin march out to the fields together and use grass to camouflage the tents they put up,” the source continued.
Despite efforts by the authorities to maintain discipline, soldiers continue to commit crimes, sometimes against civilians living near military bases.
“Soldiers aren’t fed well enough so they steal corn and potatoes from houses at night and take cucumbers and corn from nearby fields,” a separate source in North Hamgyong Province reported, adding that local residents are privately complaining that the authorities have failed to fix the problem.
“Agricultural Management Committees provide extra food to the soldiers to help resolve their food shortages, but the soldiers continue to steal crops,” he said.
“Local residents know the soldiers are just hungry so they don’t raise an issue [with the military authorities]. They just suffer in silence.”