North Korea introduces `mandatory military service for women`

  02 February 2015    Read: 1680
North Korea introduces `mandatory military service for women`
High school graduates will be forced to serve in the country
North Korea is making military service mandatory for young women in a bid to strengthen the nation’s armed forces, sources inside the secretive state have told DailyNK.

The measure is said to apply to women aged between 17 and 20, and has been handed down to mobilisation offices in each province, city, and county. Implementation is reported to be already underway.

“Late last year, we received orders for all women who have graduated from middle and high school to undergo mandatory military service,” a source based in North Hamkyung Province told Daily NK this week.

“The preliminary screening and physicals related to enlistment, which begins in April, are all complete and duty sectors have been organised,” the source said.

Screenings look for physical problems or contagious diseases. The minimum height requirement for women to serve was lowered to 142cm in 2012, but this standard is not strictly enforced, according to the source.

The military is said to be hoping to make up for a shortfall in troop numbers in its “million-man army”

Customarily, enlistment in North Korea occurs twice a year in April and August, and up until now, women served on a voluntarily basis, while men invariably underwent mandatory service.

School graduates (17-18 years-old) enlist in April, while the enlistment period for workers at or under the age of 20 takes place in August.

This new policy, however, is not expected to compel women to serve the same length of time as men. “Unlike men, who have to serve for 10 years, mandatory service for women is only up to the age of 23,” the source said.

The military is said to be hoping to make up for a shortfall in troop numbers in its “million-man army”, following the high child mortality rate and low birth rate stemming from the Arduous March, the name given to the North Korean famine in the 1990s.

The source explained that this year’s admission quotas for female applicants to universities and technical schools have yet to be announced, presumably “to only recommend those who have completed their military service or exceptionally gifted students from special schools who may be exempt from service altogether.”

The new directive is said to have caused concern among the public; women tend to be key breadwinners for their families by engaging in various types of business.

In March 2003, at the sixth session of the 10th Supreme People’s Assembly, it was announced that military service was to be reduced to 10 years from 13 for men, and to seven from 10 for women. Only women signing up voluntarily were to serve, while men in some specialised units would still be required to fulfil 13 years of service.

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