North Korean state-run media reported on March 18 that young people had petitioned to join the military at schools and at workplaces. (Rodong Sinmun)

◆ Is it really true that 1.4 million young people have petitioned to join the military due to anger and hatred of the enemy?

Amid US-ROK joint military drills, North Korea’s state-run media outlets have reported that up to 1.4 million students and laborer-youth have volunteered for service in the military. This petition signing events the country has held, however, are nothing more than superficial shows; in fact, young people rarely join the military anymore, several reporting partners in the northern region of the country told ASIAPRESS recently. (KANG Ji-won)

On March 20, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that up to 1.4 million young people have enthusiastically volunteered for service in the military nationwide “filled with hatred toward the American imperialists and South Korean puppet-pirates” for their “completely reckless schemes to provoke a nuclear war.”

The article was a major story, with many photos of young people throughout the country petitioning to join the military.

The petition signing events shown in the article’s photos, however, were nothing more than a superficial show for the cameras. Two ASIAPRESS reporting partners living in the northern part of the country said that none of the young people will actually go forward with joining the military. The following is a Q&A with the two reporting partners.

◆ Just a show for the cameras

―― We’ve heard that up to 1.4 million people have petitioned to join the military, but are they really joining the military?

Petitioning for military service does not mean anyone will actually join the military. The authorities have ordered that the Socialist Youth League prepare for mobilization all those who have been selected at a moment’s notice, but all of this (the photos of people petitioning for service) is just a show. People from each workplace who were gathered beforehand simply participated in the petition events and wrote down their names.


―― So, they have not started the process of joining the military, then?

There’s been no talk of people undergoing physical checkups or going through other processes of joining the military, such as receiving uniforms. It’s all for show, because the number of people who petitioned just matches with the number of people who signed petitions. Nobody among the petitioners believes that they need to really join the military.

There are people, however, who are worried that the authorities will send the petitioners to farm areas after the fall in tensions on the Korean Peninsula.


―― Has there been a rise in the number of soon-to-be-graduates of high school who will join the military?
New recruits are scheduled to start their service from March 25, but I’ve heard that they won’t be conducting any more recruitment apart from those already selected.


―― Kim Jong-un regime is heavily criticized the joint US-ROK military drills.

The situation is tense, but the regime frequently tells us to “stay faithful because we have the Supreme Leader and the world’s best nuclear arsenal.” They’ve done so much of this kind of propaganda that there are even people who ask why the government is forcing them to do group petitions when the country already has nukes.

North Korean state-run media reported on March 18 that young people had petitioned to join the military at schools and at workplaces. (Rodong Sinmun)

◆ Petitioning to show loyalty to the state

―― Is there anyone who is genuinely interested in volunteering for the military or rejoining the military?
There have been people such as former soldiers who failed to adjust to society and others facing life’s difficulties who have petitioned for service, but I’ve heard that none of these people actually went out to the events to sign their names. People who went to the events just did that so they could show off their loyalty with the knowledge that they wouldn’t have to join the military.

Someone I know received a physical examination as part of the process of joining the military this spring, but they failed the examination because they were considered too weak physically. This person applied to join the military at a group petition event held at their school, but that didn’t fly, either. That’s why the events were just a stunt for the cameras.


―― Is the regime mobilizing civilians in any special way to resist the US and South Korea?
Apart from the drills held by civilian armed organizations (paramilitary groups) at each workplace, there’s been nothing.


※ ASIAPRESS communicates with reporting partners through Chinese cell phones smuggled into North Korea.