Aug. 21 (UPI) -- A North Korea claim more than 3.4 million people offered to volunteer to enlist in the army during a week of high tensions is being met with skepticism in the country.
Sources in the country told news services Daily NK and Radio Free Asia the state had claimed more than 3 million people offered to join the army as tensions escalated on the peninsula.
But North Koreans did not volunteer and state authorities ordered locals to participate in a mass assembly, Radio Free Asia reported Monday.
A source in North Hamgyong Province said rallies did take place in the region.
"An emergency order issued from the state affairs committee was passed down to civil defense departments and local party committees, and in each region a petition rally took place," the source said. "In North Hamgyong Province the local party committee ordered the youth alliance to hold a petition contest in Pohang Square in Chongjin City."
The source also said organizations involved in the rally ordered youth under age 30 to assemble and carry out the rally according to the mandate of the "central leadership."
"Students from elite middle schools were also mobilized for the ceremony," the source said. "At the rally, the youth wore black bread-shaped hats, and sports shoes. They lined up in a field by class, and wrote their names on a campus petition."
South Korean news service Daily NK quoted a local source who said the North Korean authorities are mobilizing 15-year-old students while "raising the atmosphere of war."
Daily NK's source in North Korea's Yanggang Province said the teenagers were forced to sign the petition according to state requirements, although enlisting with the military is becoming an unpopular option owing to malnutrition among soldiers.
The reports contradict a statement from North Korea's Korean Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun issued on Aug. 12.
The newspaper claimed more than 3.4 million "party members, workers and students" offered to join the army, and that they petitioned for three days.