Saturday, October 07, 2006

Insights to the North Korean Military

With reports of 60 shots being fired Saturday along the heavily armed no man's land separating the divided Koreas, this seems like a fitting time to touch on the North Korean military.

Following are highlights of a testimony by Han Young Jin, who defected from North Korea:

The combined North Korean military numbers 1.2 million, army, naval and air force, though some estimate the number as being closer to 1.7 million.

Military duty is compulsory: For men, it’s 10 years, and for women, it is 6~8 years.

Men used to be required to be taller than 148cm (4’10”) and heavier than 48kg (106 lbs). Nowadays they only have to be 145cm (4’9”) and 40kg (88 lbs).

This is because in the 1990s, many were stunted from lack of food. Many soldiers were at one time “kotjebi” (child beggars)”, wandering around in search of food.

Malnutrition is still a problem for those in the military. Before the food shortage, 800g of rice, and 200g of meat was the official amount provided for one day. For over ten years now, this has not been the case.

However, when it is announced that a military base will be receiving a visit from Kim Jong Il, vegetables and meat are borrowed from nearby villages for "food inspection", and later returned.

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