Workers and Peasants in the Army, Now

It was reported today that North Korea’s Worker and Peasant Red Guard, a reserve force with 5.7 million members, has been renamed the Worker and Peasant Red Army.

The news was reported indirectly by Chosun Central TV as it revealed on the 1st that Party officials had paid their respects to the country’s founder at Mt. Keumsoo Memorial Palace in Pyongyang when the announcer said, “Beside comrade Kim Il Sung’s statue, the flags of the Chosun Workers’ Party, the Republic, the Chosun People’s Army and Worker and Peasant Red Army were set up.”

However, looking back, the name Worker and Peasant Red Army also appeared at the military parade to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Party founding on October 10th, 2010.

At that time, reporting news of the parade, Chosun Central News Agency (KCNA) proclaimed, “The parade of the Chosun People’s Army, corps of the army, navy and air force, Chosun People’s Domestic Army (referring to the People’s Safety Ministry and Border Guard units), Worker and Peasant Red Army and Young Red Guard was carried out magnificently.”

Prior to that, the final use of the phrase Worker and Peasant Red Guard was during a commemorative convention for the 40th anniversary of the Young Red Guard, a reserve force consisting of senior middle school students between 4th and 6th grade, on September 11th.

The Worker and Peasant Guard has traditionally played the role of a local area defensive force, but through this change it has been reinforced as an offensive force; the other core reserve force, Local Reserve Forces, is also offensive.

That this change occurred shortly after Kim Jong Eun’s emergence at the Chosun Workers’ Party Delegates’ Conference suggests it may be related to the succession. That is, it may have been a step in expanding the authority of the Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Party by turning a reserve force into a regular armed force, since the Worker and Peasant Red Army is controlled by the Civil Defense Department of the Central Committee of the Party.

In terms of reserve forces in addition to the Worker and Peasant Red Army, the Local Reserve Forces have around 600,000 soldiers, and Young Red Guard has approximately one million student soldiers.

Men between 17 and 45 who do not belong to the Local Reserve Forces, all men between 46 and 60 and single women from 17 to 30 must join the Worker and Peasant Red Army.