North Korean Executives' Children Avoid Military Service

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North Korean soldiers are shown on a boat on the Yalu River in a file photo.
North Korean soldiers are shown on a boat on the Yalu River in a file photo.

Young North Koreans from well-connected families are avoiding military service in growing numbers, often by claiming illness, in a trend that is fueling social tensions, North Korean sources say.

The practice is now common among the children of People’s Committee and Administrative Committee officials at the city or county level, a resident of North Hamgyong province told RFA’s Korean Service.

“Some executives’ children regularly return home from their military base for medical reasons, and they eventually get discharged,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“North Koreans excused from military service for medical reasons are deemed not eligible for later political work, but have no problem finding positions as administration executives or as workers in trade,” the source said.

One young North Korean conscripted in May from Chongjin city’s Sinam district returned home only two months later, the source said, adding that the young man’s father, surnamed Park, is employed as a labor department officer for the district’s Administrative Committee.

“Officer Park’s son was sent back for ‘medical reasons’ and is now lounging around at home,” he said.

“His friends are also executives’ children who have avoided military service. He is not being treated in a friendly way by his neighbors, though.”

A growing problem

Also speaking to RFA, a source in North Korea’s South Hamgyong province called the widespread evasion of military duty by the children of executives a growing problem.

“They are in a totally different class from the children of ordinary citizens, who are often forced to perform physical labor on construction sites or farms during their years of military service,” the source said, also speaking on condition he not be named.

“The son of one executive of the Hamhung City Party Committee was discharged during his first year of military service,” the source said.

“He spent the first six months of his initial training period on vacation leave, and then served the rest of his days at home after being assigned to a military base.”

He then visited his base just once a month, the source said.

“This is considered to be a special right of the executives, and it is ruining the social environment,” he said.

Reported by Jieun Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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