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North Korea

Military Conscription and Terms of Service

As of mid-1993, North Korea had national conscription for males that included significant pre-induction and post-enlistment obligations. Initial draft registration is at age fourteen, and two pre-induction physicals are conducted at age sixteen. Preinduction student training includes both high school and college training corps. Senior middle school students are enlisted in the Red Guard Youth and receive about 300 hours of rudimentary military training annually. Approximately 160 hours of this training takes place at school; the remainder is conducted during a one-time, week-long summer camp. College students are organized into College Training Units. They train for 160 hours annually on campus and participate in a one-time, six-month training camp.

The typical draft age is seventeen--after high school graduation. Some youths are able to postpone entering the military through temporary deferments based on college attendance or civilian occupation skills. The maximum legal draft age is believed to be twenty-five. Eligibility for the draft is based on economic and political factors as well as physical condition. Technicians, skilled workers, members of special government organizations, and children of the politically influential often are excluded from the draft. Most service personnel are single.

Women are recruited on a limited scale for rear area duties: psychological warfare units, hospitals, administration, and antiaircraft units. Most women are assigned to units defending fixed installations near their workplaces.

In mid-1993 the legal term of service for enlisted army draftees was believed to be forty-two months. The term of service for draftees in the navy and air force was forty-eight months. However, legal limits regularly are extended. Draftees in regular army units typically are discharged at age twenty-six, regardless of the time of entry into service. Those assigned to special operations forces or the air force often are not discharged until age thirty. Terms of service for draftees, therefore, range from less than four to more than ten years.

Recruits undergo initial military familiarization before being sent to a basic training center. Induction and a month-long basic training program for conscripts are held between March and August. New recruit training is conducted by a training company at the regiment or division level depending on the service. Advanced training varies according to service and branch: infantry and armor training is for one month, artillery training for three months, and communications training for six months. Once assigned to a unit, the individual soldier receives further training, most of which is conducted at the company or platoon level.

Training is conducted under constant supervision and essentially emphasizes memorization and repetition but also includes a heavy emphasis on technical skills and vocational training. Lack of a technical base is another reason for the emphasis on repetitive training drills. Night training is extensive, and physical and mental conditioning also are stressed. Remedial training for initially substandard performances is not uncommon. Such training methods produce soldiers well versed in the basics even under adverse conditions. The degree to which they are prepared to respond rapidly to changing circumstances is less certain.

The quality of life of the enlisted soldier is difficult to evaluate. Conditions are harsh; rations are 650 to 750 grams per day (80 to 90 percent of the South Korean ration), depending on branch and service. Leave and passes are limited and strictly controlled. A two-week leave is allowed only once or twice during an enlistment. A ten-day leave normally is granted for marriage or parental death. Passes for enlisted men are even rarer; neither day nor overnight passes are granted. During tours of duty, day passes are granted for public affairs duties or KWPrelated activities. There is conflicting information about the frequency of corporal punishment and the harshness of military justice.

A typical daily routine can run from 5:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M., with at least ten hours devoted to training and only three hours of free or rest time, excluding meals. In addition, soldiers perform many duties not related to their basic mission. Units are expected, for example, to grow crops and to raise livestock or fish to supplement their rations.

Data as of June 1993

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