According to information received on the 25th, members of a new escort unit likely to be for the protection of Kim Jong Eun are being chosen during this year’s conscription process.
A Yangkang Province source revealed the news yesterday, saying, “They have been in the process of selecting conscripts for Escort Command since April. In contrast with other years, it is said that guards for Kim Jong Eun are being selected.”
“The deputy director of the Central Party Guidance Department as well as Escort Command officers and provincial Party cadres have all visited the Military Mobilization Department and shown an interest,” the source went on. “Ultimately, eleven people made the grade.”
According to the source, those who passed were allegedly told, “The place to which you will be deployed is ‘a newly organized escort unit, but we cannot say what the unit name is.” They were supposed to move out on the 23rd, he added, but at the time of writing remained on standby.
According to a source from across in Hoiryeong, North Hamkyung Province, just one person from there was chosen for the new unit.
“23 people were selected from our military in the first round and sent to the Military Mobilization Department; however, all bar one came back having failed,” the source revealed. “According to them, those who passed were not given uniforms and are currently living together in an inn.”
Even the physical requirements for admission have gotten stricter, a military source added, saying, “Previous new members of Escort Command had to be more than 168cm tall, however this time they must be 170cm or taller. The son of the Provincial Party administrative head was picked in the first round, but he was too short so in the end even he did not pass.”
“The lead officer told the cadres from the Military Mobilization Department, ‘It’s a slightly different unit from the Escort Command, and since these are the first to comprise the newly created unit, please look after them well until they leave,’” the military source added, continuing, “While to the eleven new conscripts, he emphasized, ‘Until you leave for the base or arrive there, do not ask or try to find out anything.”
In April every year, upper middle school graduates are given physical examinations and as a result find out whether or not they can enter the military. However, those hoping to make it into Escort Command start earlier, in November of the previous year, with stricter tests of health, personality, family background and appearance. Those who pass the first round are sent to work in the provincial Party, hopefully until they enter the military in August.
However, they undertake further tests on a monthly basis, and anybody who either falls short of the mark in a test or has a problem in the process of their education will fail. Final selections are then overseen by the Guidance Department of the Central Committee of the Chosun Workers’ Party.
Lee Yeong Guk, author of the book ‘I Was Kim Jong Il’s Bodyguard’, wrote that getting into Kim Jong Il’s personal guard was “harder than passing through the eye of a needle,” a fact borne out by the news that just eleven among all the new conscripts in Yangkang Province, and just one in North Hamkyung Province, were successful.
Based on the somewhat unclear phrase, “newly organized escort unit”, it appears likely that the new unit is intended to be for the protection of the successor, Kim Jong Eun. History also gives credence to this view; Kim Jong Il’s first personal guard unit was chosen back in 1977 while his succession was still in the relatively early stages, and was thereafter merged with Kim Il Sung’s own unit into Escort Command.