PYONGYANG, North Korea, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- North Korea has decided to expand military conscription to include women.
The new directive was expected to go into effect sometime in the beginning of the new year.
"Late last year, we received orders for all women who have graduated from middle and high school to undergo mandatory military service," a source in the North's Hamkyung Province told Daily NK.
Women are believed to comprise approximately 22 percent of North Korea's military.
North Korean men are required to join the military at 17 and serve for 10 years. That requirement, the source said, will not apply to women.
"Mandatory service for women is only up to the age of 23... A 17-year-old who enlists in April will serve until she is 23, but a 20-year-old worker who enlists in August will only serve three years."
Unconfirmed rumors suggest the mandatory 10 years of service for males may also be extended.
The new directive requiring women to serve in the military appears to have been driven by a troop shortage. An estimated 3.5 million of North Korea's 22 million citizens died in the mid-1990s from a famine referred to the "Arduous March."