Military as Stepping Stone to Making Money

According to the Daily NK:

The North Korean military has 1.2 million regular forces, although the exact strength of the military has not been revealed (Some estimate the size at 1.7 million). But if you add the “Pacification corps” and the “Red Guard” composed of workers and peasants, and 8 the million effective reserves, everyone belongs to the military except for the old, sick and young.

For men, military service lasts 10 years.  For women, it is 6-8 years. Between 1987-8, conscription lasted 13 years, but after that, it was reduced back to 10.

The biggest cause of stress for the soldiers is not being allowed to have relationships. For this reason, senior students are having secret relationships with women in the nearest village. There are many who prepare for the end of their terms by saving up resources for marriage and getting engaged.

Such activities are risky, particularly if the relationship results in pregnancy.  Such soldiers are ‘discharged from service due to family hardships’.  These soldiers will never being able to become high officials.  

The second source of stress is money. Before the 1990s, joining the Korean Workers’ Party was the highest honor and it was the purpose of serving in the military. Today, money is preferred to party membership. This is why conscripts try to strategically choose departments where they can maximize their revenue.

In the past when joining the party was important, people preferred a forward unit and a special branch of the army, but now they prefer border guards and coast guards.  In the 1990s, the border guards aimed to “make 3-500,000W ($100-$167)”, but now they aim to “make 3 million won” ($1,000).


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