(FILE PHOTO) Scrawny-looking soldiers build a fire to roast corn stolen from a field by the river. Many of the recruits are said to be malnourished after joining the army. Photo by Jang Jeong-gil in a suburb of Pyongyang, September 2008. (ASIAPRESS)

<Inside N. Korea>Recruitment for the world's longest military service(1) This year 8 years for men, 5 years for women

According to a survey conducted by ASIAPRESS, recruits entering the army this year are expected to serve for eight years for men and five years for women, and many are dissatisfied with the low quality of military uniforms for new recruits. The authorities are asking people to donate various military supplies to the army, which is delaying their arrival at their posts. This report examines the reality of the North Korean army through the various aspects of the North Korean landscape during the recruitment season. (JEON Sung-joon / KANG Ji-won)

◆ Poor military supplies are severe, uniforms are poor quality

In early April, an ASIAPRESS reporting partner in a northern province of North Korea described the poor supply of supplies for North Korean military recruits as follows.

"They say that the departure of new recruits is delayed due to insufficient supply of uniforms at (some) corps uniform supply centers. The (poor supply) of quality uniforms has also been deplorable. Previously, the uniforms were made of Teflon, which was less wrinkled and tougher, but the new uniforms are made of cotton, so when the recruits sit down and get up, they look like nongpo (farmers') pants (because their knees are revealed)."

※ Nongpo: A widely used derogatory term for farmers, the lowest class of North Koreans.

"The municipal government arranged for new recruits who came up from the provinces to sleep at an inn, but three of the recruits who were sleeping there lost their uniforms (the uniforms were stolen). People who were making and selling military uniforms were later caught."

(FILE PHOTO) Soldiers of the Island Defense Corps, located at the southernmost tip of the Southwest Front. They are short and look like boy soldiers. Kim Jong-un can be seen at the center conducting an inspection. Rodong Sinmun, August 2012

◆ Parents still send their kids to the military because it still represents a way to advance in society

Parents feel bad for their sons and daughters who are facing shortages before they even enlist. However, the reporting partner said that it is rare for parents not to send their children to the military.

"It's hard to make a living (without going to the army), and if you want to advance in society, you need years of military service, so they try to send their kids if they can. However, some powerful families try to make it a little easier by sending their children to college and giving them short-term service in shock troop teams (organizations created to help out with construction projects)."

Meanwhile, the food stalls at the markets are packed with parents and recruits trying to feed their children a little more before they enlist, the reporting partner said.

◆ People forced to donate cotton clothes and gloves to give to the military

Meanwhile, Kim Jong Un's regime has been forcing the general population to donate various military supplies, which has led to growing discontent.

"Since the beginning of April, the government has demanded people contribute gloves and cotton cloth for the Korean People's Army, and families in each neighborhood watch unit have to pay 3,000 won. Each household has to contribute one glove and 50 cents worth of cotton cloth."

※ 100 North Korean won is equivalent to about 157 South Korean won.

The reporting partner said that unlike in the past, the non-tax burden must be fulfilled regardless of individual living conditions. "For food-short households or households in need, authorities exclude them from doing tasks such as neighborhood watch unit guard duty, arranging compost sites, and cleaning communal toilets. Instead, they have to pay more money compared to other households."

Taken together, information from reporting partners suggest there are serious concerns about the Kim regime's ability to continue operating the military at its current scale. This year's recruits will continue to rot away the most beautiful years of their lives as they face the harsh conditions of the North Korean military.

<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