December 06, 2022
Columns

Why North Korea introduced its own version of alternative civilian service

The DPRK’s shock detachments realize a dream of early communist leaders and provide a path to social advancement

North Korean cities have always been crowded with men and women clad in uniform. The country has one of the world’s largest standing armies, and many professional groups require members to wear uniforms, like personnel of the Pyongyang subway system.

One kind of uniform appears almost as frequently as the military one — that of strike brigades (돌격대). This peculiar North Korean institution can be seen as a distant analog of alternative civilian service.