March 01, 2024
Analysis

Why interest in the North Korean army is dropping

The informal economy means young people have other options for success

North Korean army barracks are not a nice place to be, even by the tough standards of barracks worldwide. Conditions are tough, food supplies are poor and discipline is harsh. To make matters worse, the average length of military service in the North is now close to 10 years (though it used to be even longer). Nonetheless, until roughly 2000, the Korean People’s Army (KPA) had little problem with recruitment.

In those not so distant days, till the outbreak of famine, only the children of the top elite could and would opt out of military service. The North Korean recruitment system followed the Soviet prototype and exempted those who successfully passed college entrance exams immediately upon graduation from a high school. Most elite children went to university straight from high school, so they did not have to worry about the draft.

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