Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Korea (Democratic People's Republic of ) (North Korea)
|Publisher||Child Soldiers International|
|Cite as||Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Korea (Democratic People's Republic of ) (North Korea), 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4988064d21.html [accessed 20 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.
Population: 22.5 million (7.0 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 1.1 million (estimate)
Compulsory recruitment age: 17 or 18 (unclear)
Voluntary recruitment age: 17 (unclear)
Voting age: 17
Optional Protocol: not signed
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I
Both the conscription and voluntary recruitment ages were unclear, although information indicated that the minimum voluntary age for enlistment was 17. It was not known whether under-18s were serving in the armed forces. Children were reportedly subjected to military training and indoctrination in school from a young age. More than one million secondary school children aged between 14 and 16 were estimated to be members of the Red Youth Guard militia. They reportedly underwent military training at school and in training centres.
Talks in February 2004 between the USA and North Korea with regard to North Korea giving up its development of nuclear weapons ended without a breakthrough.1 Improvements in links between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea continued. Aid from South Korea continued in the form of food and fertilizers and rail and road connections were established for the first time since the Korean war ended in 1953. Family reunions took place during 2003 and groups from South Korea were able to visit North Korea for the first time. Systematic food shortages continued throughout the period from 2001 to 2004 and North Korea relied heavily on international food aid to feed the population. By 2003 more than 40 per cent of children were reportedly suffering from malnutrition. Public executions continued to be reported. Political opposition to the government was not tolerated and access to the country by independent human rights monitors was tightly restricted. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of asylum seekers who fled to China to escape poverty and repression were forcibly returned to North Korea, where they were at risk of human rights violations.2
National recruitment legislation
According to Article 58 of the 1998 constitution "the Democratic People's Republic of Korea rests on the people's nationwide defence system". Article 60 states that the state will implement a system of "self-reliant defence" which will involve arming the "entire people", as well as training and modernizing the army. Article 86 states that "National defence is the supreme duty and honour of citizens. Citizens shall defend the country and serve in the army as required by law".3
According to one source all men between the ages of 18 and 24 were required to perform military service although it was unclear whether this was implemented in practice.4 The government informed the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 1996 that military service was voluntary and that the minimum age of recruitment was 16.5 However, the government delegation to the committee stated that the minimum voluntary recruitment age was 17, adding that "after school and vocational training, young persons could volunteer to join the army but as they had to meet high standards of physical fitness and development, they were often over 18 before they were allowed to start active service".6
Reserve troops in the Worker and Peasant Red Guard, with an estimated four million members, reportedly include 17 year olds. The Guard is responsible for guarding key facilities, civil defence, and providing emergency services in war and peacetime. Red Guard members reportedly underwent a total of 240 hours of military training. Economic hardship reportedly forced many of them to look for food instead of reporting for duty.7
Military training and military schools
While little information was available, militarization and political indoctrination of children was believed to start from a young age. Foreign visitors and education sources report that young children received mandatory military training and political education for several hours a week at school.8
Secondary school students between the ages of 14 and 16 receive basic military training as members of the Red Youth Guard, which has units in every secondary school.9 According to one source, Red Youth Guard members receive over 400 hours of military training annually, at schools and training centres. A four-hour military training exercise is carried out in school grounds each Saturday, consisting of an obstacle course, grenade throwing, and basic military training such as close order drill and individual combat. In their fifth year, students reportedly attend Red Youth Guard training centres in each region in their summer vacation, for training in marksmanship, camping and marching. On admission at training centres, the youth are reportedly provided with heavy weapons and personal firearms.10 About 1.2 million male and female students in their fourth to sixth years in secondary schools were reportedly members of the Red Youth Guard.11
Child recruitment and deployment
No information was available on how many children are recruited annually into the armed forces, or how many are currently serving in the ranks.
1 Charles Scanlon, "Slow progress towards a deal", BBC, 28 February 2004.
2 Amnesty International Reports, 2002, 2003 and 2004, http://web.amnesty.org/library/engindex.
3 Constitution, adopted 5 September 1998 by first session, 10th Supreme People's Assembly (unofficial translation), http://confinder. richmond.edu/local_nkorea.html.
4 B. Horeman and M. Stolwijk, Refusing to Bear Arms: A World Survey of Conscription and Conscientious Objection to Military Service, War Resisters International, London, 1998, http://www.wri-irg.org/co/rtba.
5 Initial Report of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/3/Add. 41, 17 June 1996, http://www.ohchr.org.
6 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Summary Record of the 458th meeting, UN Doc. CRC/C/SR.458, 26 May 1998.
7 Republic of Korea National Intelligence Service, http://www.nis.go.kr/eng/north/defense_index. html.
8 US Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2003, February 2004, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/hr/c1470.htm.
9 Centre for Non-Proliferation Studies, Institute for Contemporary International Problems, The DPRK Report, No. 10, November-December 1997.
10 Republic of Korea National Intelligence Service, op. cit.
11 Republic of Korea National Intelligence Service, op. cit.