Although tensions between the United States and North Korea have eased to a simmer, economic sanctions put in place as a result of the nation’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and a reliable means to deliver them to distant targets remain in place. North Korea’s aggressive and isolationist approach to foreign relations has always resulted in a stagnate economy and food shortages, but it would seem the international sanctions put in place due to Kim Jong-un’s belligerent regime may be pushing soldiers in the nation’s military to extremes in order to survive.
According to unnamed North Korean sources who spoke to Radio Free Asia, the country’s rural residents are increasingly reporting that their homes and farms are being looted by desperate North Korean soldiers. These accounts come on the heels of previous reports in international media of soldiers being granted months of leave in order to scavenge for food.
An increasing number of soldiers are breaking into civilian homes recently,” said the source, who reportedly lives in North Korea’s Kangwon province. “They are in the middle of the winter training period, where they have strict rules to keep, but soldiers are able to sneak out at night when their superiors are not watching and break into homes or threshing floors at farms.”
In late 2017, a North Korean soldier identified as Oh Chong Song was shot five times as he made his break for South Korean territory. When he was recovered and brought to a South Korean hospital for treatment, doctors found only hard corn kernels and massive parasitic infections in his stomach. Troops stationed at the DMZ dividing North and South Korea traditionally receive the best equipment and rations, suggesting that troops stationed elsewhere in the nation must have already been suffering extremely difficult conditions.
“The reality is that the military doesn’t have enough supplies. They are short on rice for soldiers so there’s no way they’ll stop them from stealing,” said the source.
Military leaders have reportedly been ordered to improve the quality and volume of rations provided to their troops but have not been given the resources to do so. As a result, some believe the nighttime raids are being ignored by commanders who know they don’t have the means to follow the orders provided.
Images have also surfaced online of North Korean troops rummaging through corn fields in hopes of finding edible leftovers after the harvest.
— Daily NK/Unification Media Group (UMG) (@The_Daily_NK) January 2, 2018
Radio Free Asia’s source within North Korea went on to indicate that conditions aren’t much better for any part of the North Korean military, resulting in the theft of supplies meant to feed troops training through the cold winter months.
“If they don’t improve the quality of the food [they are feeding their men], they will be harshly punished, but there’s no way to do this if military officials don’t stop stealing all the supplies,” they said.