Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 - Korea, Democratic People's Republic of
|Publisher||Child Soldiers International|
|Publication Date||20 May 2008|
|Cite as||Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 - Korea, Democratic People's Republic of, 20 May 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/486cb10e2d.html [accessed 22 May 2013]|
Population: 22.5 million (6.8 million under 18)
Government Armed Forces: 1.1 million
Compulsary Recruitment Age: 18 (unclear)
Voluntary Recruitment Age: 16 or 17 (unclear)
Voting Age: 17
Optional Protocol: not signed
Other Treaties: GC AP I, CRC
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.
Although there was currently no armed conflict in North Korea, no peace treaty had been signed with South Korea and the two states technically remained at war.
In October 2007 the leaders of North and South Korea agreed moves towards formally declaring an end to the war, although a full peace treaty is not expected for years.1 The government pledged to disable all nuclear facilities by the end of 2007 in return for multilateral economic aid.2
National recruitment legislation and practice
The 1972 constitution, amended in 1992 and 1998, states that "the Democratic People's Republic of Korea rests on the people's nationwide defence system" (Article 58); that the state would implement a system of "self-reliant defence", which would involve arming the "entire people", as well as training and modernizing the army "on the basis of equipping the army and the people politically and ideologically" (Article 60); and 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" (Article 86).
In 2003 the government reported to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child that the legal minimum age for voluntary enlistment in the armed forces was 16 – the age of graduating from senior middle school – but in practice volunteers took an oath to respect the military code of conduct and began their regular military service only at the age of 17 after pre-service military education that lasted for six months or more, on a selective basis. The report went on to state that those selected were educated in full-time military or technical educational institutes for one to two years before being posted to units as servicemen on active duty. It emphasized that enlistment was on a voluntary basis and that there was no system of forced conscription.3
Other reports claimed that there was widespread conscription. According to one source all men between the ages of 18 and 24 were liable for military service. Women were not liable for regular military service, but had to undergo annual and other military training until they were 40.4 Another source gave the conscription age as 20-25, followed by part-time compulsory service in the Worker-Peasant Red Guards until the age of 60.5
Elsewhere it was claimed that ten years' service was mandatory for all conscripts and enlisted personnel, according to a directive issued by head of state Kim Jong-Il in April 1993, the system being revised in October 1996 to require service until the age of 30 for men and 26 for women. The source claimed that due to a decrease in the number of volunteers for work involving heavy labour, the government had introduced "labour service", whereby an individual could be exempted from military service in return for six to seven years' labour.6 Another source stated that all able-bodied men who did not go to college were conscripted into the military and that some were conscripted immediately after middle school, making them 17 or 18 years old. According to the same source, the duration of service depended on supply and demand and if the authorities determined there were insufficient new conscripts those who had already completed their terms were required to stay on.7
A reserve military training unit, of men aged 17-45 and unmarried women aged 17-30, consisted of approximately 1.7 million personnel. Together with members of the Worker-Peasant Red Guards and Young Red Guards, the total number of available reserve personnel was estimated at 7 million.8
Military training and military schools
According to North Korean media, Kim Jong-Il frequently told officials that ideological education, with its emphasis on a "military first" policy, had to take precedence over academic education in the nation's schools. Foreign visitors and academic sources reported that from an early age children were subjected to several hours a week of mandatory military training and political indoctrination at their schools.9
According to one source, 1.2 million male and female secondary-school students aged 14-16 received mandatory military training as members of the Young Red Guards, including a weekly four-hour drill session and an annual total of 160 hours of on-campus drills and 450 hours of off-campus training.10
In 2003, in response to a question on military training of children by the UN Committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights, the government responded that students in their final year of secondary-school had one week's military camping in the summer, but emphasized that "this is not a military training", although the students learned how to dismantle and assemble a weapon and to shoot. It was not known whether such training continued.11
Child recruitment and deployment
No information was available on how many children were recruited annually into the armed forces, or how many were currently serving in the ranks.
The Worker-Peasant Red Guard reportedly consisted of a combination of older men aged 45-60, along with those males aged 17-45 and unmarried females aged 17-30 who were not included in the Reserve Military Training Unit. They trained for a total of 30 days a year, and one source estimated their total numbers at 4.1 million.12 There were also around 189,000 other paramilitary security troops, including border guards and public safety personnel.13
Among the recommendations made by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in its 2004 consideration of North Korea's second periodic report were that North Korea should ratify the Optional Protocol, take all necessary measures to avoid the early militarization of children and increase the age of majority from 17 to 18, to ensure the full protection of all persons under the age of 18.14
A three-member delegation of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child was allowed unprecedented access to the country in April 2004, when they highlighted mistreatment of children returned from China, economic exploitation, trafficking and torture.15
1 "North, South Korea pledge peace, prosperity", Reuters, 4 October 2007; "Peace Treaty Feasible in 5 Years", Korea Times, 24 October 2007.
2 "North Koreans Agree to Disable Nuclear Facilities", New York Times, 3 October 2007.
3 Second periodic report of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/65/Add.24, 5 November 2003.
7 Confidential sources, 2007.
10 North Korea Military Reserves, above note 8.
11 Replies by the Government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to the list of issues (E/C.12/Q/Dprk/1) to be taken up in connection with the consideration of the second periodic reports of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea concerning the rights referred to in Articles 1-15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (E/1990/6/Add .35), HR/CESCR/NONE/2003/1, 10-28 November 2003.
12 North Korea Military Reserves, above note 8.
13 Library of Congress Country Profile, above note 5.
14 Concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, UN Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.239, 4 June 2004.
15 Human Rights Watch, 2005 World Report, North Korea.