(FILE PHOTO) A female soldier wanders through a market alley. She appears to be at the end of her military service. Photographed by Mindeullae in Ryanggang Province, June 2013 (ASIAPRESS)

North Korean authorities have set the length of service for military recruits this year at eight years for men and five years for women, according to a reporting partner inside the country. In this two-part series, ASIAPRESS uses information from multiple reporting partners to take a look at the changes in North Korea's military recruitment and their significance in today’s North Korea. (JEON Sung-jun / KANG Ji-won)

◆ Soldiers in missile and mechanized units serve for 10 years

In April, several reporting partners in the northern part of the country reported that the length of service for new recruits joining the Korean People's Army this year is the same as last year: eight years for men and five years for women.

"There are some differences depending on the type of soldier, such as 10 years for special soldiers such as missile and mechanized units, but it is said to be eight years for men and five years for women."

ASIAPRESS continues to investigate the North Korean military's recruitment efforts every March and April. The investigations are conducted by North Korean reporting partners in contact with officials at the Military Mobilization Department in their regions and parents whose children are scheduled to enlist.

※ Military Mobilization Departments: Located in each province, city and county, the agencies are under the Ministry of Defense’s Reserve Forces Division and handle affairs related to the recruitment of new soldiers.

(FILE PHOTO) People seen sending off new soldiers. Every April, new recruit enlistment ceremonies are held across the country. Photographed by Ri Jun in Cheongjin in 2006 (ASIAPRESS)

◆ North Korea’s military has frequently changed service times for soldiers

The length of military service in North Korea has changed frequently, beginning with a famine in the mid-1990s called the "Arduous March." Many children died or suffered from malnutrition, and a severe recruitment shortage emerged around 2010, when this generation was entering the military.

The military has tried to make up for the shortage by extending the age of military service for men to 11 years in 2014 and 13 years in 2019, up from around 10 years previously, and by actively encouraging women to join the military as well.

The large number of young men tied to the military has led to a labor shortage in rural areas, factories, coal mines, and other production sectors. In 2021, Kim Jong Un's regime decided to drastically reduce the length of military service from 13 years to eight years for men and eight years to five years for women. They did that by discharging large numbers of soldiers who had served beyond that period and placing them in the workforce, a trend that has continued to this day.

◆ An increasing number of women join the military

According to one reporting partner, the percentage of female graduates selected this year was significantly higher than in the past.

"Among the school's graduates, except for those who were recommended to universities and vocational schools, basically all men went to the army, and many women were also selected to serve."

The reporting partner went on to say that while it is still difficult to determine exact numbers, he has heard that 60 percent of girls graduating from high schools enlist in the military. It's clear that more women are joining the military than ever before, as the country seeks to fill a chronic shortage of recruits. ( To 2 >>> )

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

<Inside N. Korea>Recruitment for the world's longest military service(1) This year 8 years for men, 5 years for women
<Inside N. Korea>Recruitment for the world's longest military service(2) Bribery in the military selection process... an unbridgeable gap between rich and poor before military life even begins
<Inside N. Korea>Recruitment for the world's longest military service(3) Poor supplies, uniforms are late in coming, and thieves...Regime forces people to donate supplies to military

A map of North Korea (ASIAPRESS)