Young soldiers on guard inside a barbed-wire fence. Wearing masks halfway down the face appears to be universal. Photo of Sinuiju on the Chinese side of the border in July 2021. (ASIAPRESS)

In mid-September, North Korean’s police agencies began a rare effort to crackdown on increasing desertions and an increase in robberies and other crimes committed by Korean People’s Army soldiers. Two reporting partners in Yanggang Province and North Hamgyung Province provided the following report. (KANG Ji-won / ISHIMARU Jiro)

◆ “Inform the police about wandering soldiers”

A reporting partner in Yanggang Province told ASIAPRESS: “Yesterday (September 18) at our inminban meeting, there was an order to inform the police about soldiers wandering around not accompanied by officers. Recently, there’s been an increase in robberies and burglaries by soldiers around the country, along with frequent desertions, so they said the measure is aimed at preventing incidents from occurring.”

Another reporting partner in North Hamgyung Province gave ASIAPRESS a similar report on September 21, saying: “There was an order handed down by the authorities telling people that the police and judicial authorities have placed restrictions on soldiers leaving their bases.”

It is rare for the police and other public safety agencies to place restrictions on the military since the military has its own military police.

There are also an increasing number of military deserters, and soldiers who return home for disease or malnutrition-related treatment must register themselves with their local police station to avoid being classified as deserters.

The Yanggang Province reporting partner said: “Police officers who catch soldiers detain them in police offices and then contact the military police to turn them over. It’s now difficult for soldiers to just wander around the streets. Military officers and police units get into frequent altercations with (soldiers) on the streets.”

Does this all mean that the military police are unable to prevent crimes being committed by soldiers?

◆ Soldier robs and then kills woman in her own house

What kind of crimes are soldiers committing?

“I heard from a woman that after barging into a house in Kilju, North Hamgyung Province, several deserters had an argument with the female owner before hitting her on the head, killing her.” (Yanggang Province reporting partner)

“There are frequent cases of people pretending to be discharged soldiers and committing acts of robbery and extortion, so we’ve received orders to report anyone loitering around in soldiers’ clothing.” (Reporting partner in North Hamgyung Province)

◆ Starving soldiers commit crimes, frequently desert their bases

The drastic increase in crime committed by soldiers began in and around June. That was when disease control measures were loosened, allowing soldiers to be able to leave their bases, training facilities, and workplaces after being prohibited to do so as part of efforts by the government to reduce their interaction with civilians.

Food supplies to military bases throughout the country also began to worsen in and around June.

“The son of a neighboring household recently returned home (from the military) on a temporary basis because he was suffering from malnutrition. His base is in Jajupo, North Hwanghae Province. There were several deserters at the base who ended up robbing civilian homes, so the base commander walked around more than three times per night to make sure no one had run off.”

Ultimately, the frequency of robberies committed by soldiers is due to the difficulties of supplying food and other necessities to military bases. (To be continued in the next installment >>)

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

Map of North Korea ( ASIAPRESS)


 <Inside N. Korea> Unusual changes in the Army (2) Starvation spreads even in the military…Why now? Increase in soldiers sent home for malnutrition “Military bases have soldiers take afternoon naps instead of doing training”