KPA assaults worst under Kim Jong Un

Lee Sang Yong  |  2015-06-17 11:51
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Violence and brutality in North Koreas armed forces have surged after Kim Jong Un came into power, with severe beatings of lower ranking soldiers becoming more commonplace, Daily NK has learned. This trend is also reflected in the testimony of a North Korean soldier who walked across the demilitarized zone to defect to the South on Monday, no longer able to handle extensive assaults. 

Theres a political department within North Korean bases, and they train the soldiers to be loyal and arm themselves with the spirit of revolutionary camaraderie, unity from top to bottom, and unison among troops, a source based in North Hamkyung Province told Daily NK on Tuesday. But internally, units are ridden with arguments, beatings, and frequent conflicts. 

This is especially true for troops that are stationed near the border with South Korea, who receive intense political ideological training and are handpicked based on loyalty to the system, he said. But there have been all kinds of problems starting with issues of disobedience," he explained.

After Kim Jong Un assumed leadership, internal monitoring and surveillance have been ramped up to establish order over officers and lower ranking soldiers. However, this approach has led to young troops frequently escaping or going absent without leave, as they are ordered into submission without being provided with proper food supplies. 

Its never made public, but a lot of low-ranking soldiers perish from beatings by senior soldiers, the source asserted. Some nasty officers make a habit out of bullying soldiers in lower ranks, and sometimes end up beating them to death if they dont follow their orders." 

Even at units with relatively secure supply channels, troops clash over personal goods and food, routinely attempting to take the lions share or obtain better goods.

Moreover, outside of regular training, other chores such as taking care of small plots of land are also commonly delegated to younger troops; if these tasks fail to pass muster with upper ranks, again, violence is in order, according to the source. 

Age also frequently crops up as an issue. Platoon leaders who have just joined the ranks after graduating from military academy often find themselves handling lower ranking soldiers who are in their early 20s like themselves. 

If those in their early 20s go to military school and graduate, they become platoon leaders who are similar or younger than other troops, the source said. This can lead to disobedience and create conflict; if this conflict escalates to more extreme levels, beatings invariably follow. 

Another source in the Yangkang Province said the growing influence of South Korean cultural content, known as Hallyu, may have to do with the recent border crossing of the North Korean soldier. 

There is very strict surveillance within the military to make sure there are no political accidents but curiosity about South Korean culture among young troops is growing by the day, she explained. Once you get a taste of the culture in the South, its only natural it leads to a yearning for freedom. 

Age and desire to experience life below the border, a longing fueled by viewing South Korean TV dramas, are inversely proportionate, the source added, noting, The thirst for freedom is increasingly outweighing the fear of punishment and death.

*Translated by Jiyeon Lee

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