The parents of a soldier, who died at the Samsok District training camp in Pyongyang, were denied access to his remains. Instead, they only received a death certificate stating their son was “killed in action“ and were sent back home, sources in North Korea told Daily NK on Friday.

The deceased private originally came from Samjiyon County in Ryanggang Province, according to Daily NK sources. The soldier had been stationed at Pyongyang’s Samsok District Training Camp No. 91 where he’d already served for two years. 

Given that he was from the provinces, the soldier’s parents, a couple in their 50s, are said to have been very proud that their son was assigned to a military base in the capital.

That is, until they suddenly received a request to visit their son’s unit without being told any reasons, a Ryanggang Province-based source told Daily NK. 

“After arriving at the base, the parents were provided with only a death certificate stating that [their son] was killed in action with no further explanation and [were sent] back home,“ he said. “Having also been denied to see her child’s body, the weeping mother fainted multiple times.”

SPECULATIONS ABOUND

The circumstances surrounding the death of the soldier have remained unclear – and have thus left room for various speculation.

The Pyongyang private’s stated cause of death for instance suggests he could have been killed in a military-related accident. Many North Korean defectors have compared the North Korean military’s regulations to those of South Korea – the latter considers only soldiers fallen in battle or killed in comparable conditions “killed in action.” However, Daily NK has not been able to confirm whether similar rules exist in North Korea. 

In fact, a defector interviewed by Daily NK has even voiced suspicion that the soldier’s death could have been caused by some kind of fatal mistake by his commander or a contagious disease. He justified his allegations with the military’s refusal to let the parents see their son’s remains.

SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS

The soldier’s devastated family is now also searching for answers. His father’s relatives reportedly submitted a request to the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) asking for information about the cause of death of his son.

According to a Daily NK informant in the country, the private’s family mourned for several days after returning home. Their grief was shared by acquaintances who “expressed their condolences.”

However, “they are also getting angry at the way in which the military dealt with the matter,” the source said. “The general opinion is that, if this is how [kinsmen are] treated after sending [their] son to serve in the KPA, the country is going to the dogs.”

In August, Daily NK reported that a new recruit stationed in Pyongyang was sent home with severe mental distress after a beating from a superior officer. The soldier’s family reportedly submitted a petition to the WPK to protest his treatment.

*Translated by Violet Kim and edited by Laura Geigenberger 

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