◆ Lack of enlistees sees ratio of female recruits rise to 40 percent

The terms “political and military service” and “military service” are written almost interchangeably. According to a North Korean defector with experience in the military, however, these terms can be understood to be similar but not entirely the same.

The most important thing to note from this page, however, is the number of years of military service. It is said that the state can decide service limits “in consideration of the demand for military personnel and recruitment targets,” as well as in consideration of “the type of military service and service conditions.” In other words, military service lengths are not determined by law, with the Military Service Act giving the state quite a lot of flexibility to decide service length based upon military conditions, unit strengths, and roles.

The length of military service therefore can vary. Men may be required to serve in the military for 10, 11, or 13 years, while women may be ordered to serve for 5, 6, or 7 years.

In his doctoral thesis on the “Organizational Characteristics and Symbolic System of the Chosun People’s Army (2017),” Seoul National University student, Fyodor Zrzyskisky, wrote that military service terms for men were 13 years in 1996, 10 years in 2003, and 10-11 years in 2015. For women, Zrzyskisky wrote that service periods were variable, with the service period set at 9 years in 1996 and 10 years in 2003. In 2015, women were ordered to serve in the military until the (international) age of 23.

It is apparent from internal documents that military service lengths were no longer set by law after 2003. In other words, it is most likely that the regime has decided military service lengths each year according to changing conditions.

According to a reporting partner who spoke with an officer in charge of local military recruitment, “This year’s enlistment service lengths are 13 years for men and 8 years for women.”

The reporting partner went on, explaining, “This year’s service lengths are the same as last year. There were rumors of a change at the end of last year but, in the end, the periods were kept the same. According to a recruitment official, the ratio of women recruited was 30 percent last year and is 40 percent this year. The reason for this rise is that the overall number of recruits is lower this year. Women are primarily given roles in communications or artillery, some even using rocket launchers, but recently there are women deployed to general infantry units.”

For reference, a North Korean defector who enlisted in the military in 1998, testified that during their time in the military, the proportion of women was less than 10 percent.

The standard length of service is 13 years for men and 8 years for women. There is,though, a possibility of service periods being extended or shortened depending on current troop levels. However, it is said that it is far more common for service periods to be lengthened.

In recently obtained documents it is outlined that enlistees who have a strong background in science, technology, sports, or the arts may have their service period shortened. The internally-disseminated documents also refer to “heroes” such as Ri Su-bok, as examples of soldiers who displayed the proper spirit of self-sacrifice.

The documents also use the fanatical phrase “self-sacrificing soldiers who defend the leadership of the revolution with their life.” In other words, it is expected that soldiers will be willing to die for Kim Jong-un. According to the defector who served in the N. Korean military, “soldiers are mentally trained like Japanese kamikaze commandos.”

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