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<Photo Report> Female Soldiers in Miserable Conditions: Seven Years of Military Service Starting at 17 Years Old.

A female soldier wanders around a local market. Although she is not malnourished, her face has a gloomy expression. We do not know how many years she has served in the military, although according to her badge she is a petty officer. She is also wearing a barrette. June 2013, in Ryanggang Province. Taken by Team “Mindeulle” (ASIAPRESS)

 

Parents, whose daughters will graduate from high school, are constantly worried about mandatory conscription.  A large number of girls have to start military service in April each year.

For the past five to six years, the Korean People’s Army has suffered from a shortage of male soldiers.  Because of the famine and the social chaos that ensued in the mid-1990s recruitment has become scarce since during that period, a massive number of children and toddlers had starved to death.  Those who managed to survive have extremely skinny and atrophied bodies caused by malnutrition. The inability of couples to become parents because of the impossibility to raise children under such conditions accelerated the declining birth rates. Simply put, there just isn’t enough young able bodied men.
Related article: <N.Korea> North Korean Military Facing Recruit Shortage Due to Increased Draft Dodgers and Deserters

At present, the “generation of famine” has occupied the majority of soldiers in the army.  The lack of male soldiers has been supplemented by extending the period of the military service by a year (in 2014 the extension was from 10 years to 11 years) as well as recruiting more female soldiers.  Around a third of the country’s girls in high school are forced to enter the military once they turn 17.  In the same 2014 extension women’s service extended from 6 years to 7 years.  Conditions in the military for women are often miserable, where female soldiers have at times experienced missed periods due to a lack of basic nutrition.

In an attempt to dodge conscription of their daughters, up to April parents try to bribe doctors in an attempt to get “medical certificates” claiming fake diseases or maladies.  If they are successful their daughters can avoid entering the military.

Female officers are shopping at a market. August 2007, in Ryokpo market, Pyongyang. Taken by Lee Joon (ASIAPRESS).

Next page: A female soldier at a hawker stall in Pyongyang...

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