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
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
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