North Korean soldiers pick up another soldier at a makeshift pontoon dock on the banks of the Yalu River near Sinuiju, across the Yalu River from Dandong, China. Pyongyang is taking steps to prevent draft evasion as military service is becoming increasingly unpopular. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo
North Korea is imposing tough new measures to discourage young men from avoiding military conscription.
Pyongyang authorities are conducting physical exams of eligible North Koreans at schools to prevent draft evasion, according to Japan-based news service Asia Press.
"Enlisted people are only 86 percent of those being discharged. Enlistees are in short supply and so [authorities] have mandated drafting people who do not exhibit major health issues during their physical exams," the report stated.
A source in North Korea told Asia Press military recruiting typically begins in the spring, but recently the "military recruitment department has been going around to schools and conducting physical exams of students."
"They are rushing the exams in order to prevent parents who do not want to send their children to the military," the source said.
According to Asia Press, mandatory military service in North Korea lasts 11 years for men, 7 years for women.
But the eligible population have a "weak physique" owing to a poor diet in their formative years.
Many endured starvation and struggle with malnutrition if they were born in the '90s, when the country was coping with a disastrous famine that left as many as millions dead.
Once in the service, North Korean soldiers often suffer from malnutrition, and some recruits return home after feigning illness or their parents coax authorities with bribes so their children avoid punishment.
In December, sources in the country said a diarrhea outbreak affected a North Korean unit of border guards, possibly due to consumption of spoiled foods provided to the soldiers as a "gift from Kim Jong Un."
Kim recently made his first public visit of 2017 with the military, where he focused on their needs and praised their defense posture, according to KCNA.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated eight soldiers are being recruited to replace every 10 soldiers being discharged. The correct figure is 86 percent. Mandatory military service is also 11 years for men, 7 years for women, not 13 years, as stated in the earlier version.