When a soldier of a military unit stationed in North Hwanghae Province was asked by a Daily NK source in the country what he most wanted this year, he answered without the slightest hesitation: “I wish I didn’t have to keep drawing water this year.”
Military bases may have plumbing, but pipes are prone to bursting in the winter, and chronic power outages make for an inconsistent water supply regardless of the season. As a result, the troops are constantly being put on water duty, the soldier explained.
“Last year, our unit got water from a nearby stream, and a lot of us had serious stomach problems. It’s terrible to have to drink water of such poor quality. I hope the drinking water problem will be solved this year,” he said.
The soldier added that he wasn’t the only one with this New Year’s wish.
“For the first time this year, the unit asked us for our opinion about problems with unit life and areas that need improvement. This was right after we made our New Year’s resolutions. I’m told a lot of people said they didn’t want to be put on the water detail. Anyway, this is the first time they’ve asked our opinion, so everyone is hopeful that our ideas will be implemented,” he said.
The source, who is in the North Korean military, told Daily NK that the General Political Bureau of the Korean People’s Army issued an order in early January for the entire army to solicit opinions from individual soldiers on problems with military life and issues they want to be resolved in the new year.
After the written opinions were collected from each military unit, one of the most frequently mentioned requests, along with the drinking water issue, was to ensure that soldiers receive free medical treatment, the source said. The reality of life in the military at present is that enlisted men (unlike officers) cannot be treated without connections or a bribe in the form of cash or cigarettes.
However, soldiers who are on the verge of leaving the military this year seemed reluctant to express their opinions, the source said.
“Soldiers who will be discharged this year did not go into detail about problem areas or desired improvements, perhaps because they’re about to leave the army. They have no say in their job placement, and privately they just hope they won’t be sent to a collective farm, a mine, or a tidelands reclamation project.”
The soldiers’ families, meanwhile, are hoping that they will be able to engage in private business this year. They just want to earn a living without restrictions, given the dismal state of the government’s rationing system.
“There’s a rule against soldiers’ family members running their own businesses, but I hope our unit won’t enforce it too strictly. What I’d like to do this year is set up a makeshift stall to earn some money selling tofu,” said a soldier’s family member in North Hwanghae Province.
Translated by David Carruth. Edited by Robert Lauler.
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January 17, 2024 at 06:30AM
by DailyNK(North Korean Media)