North Korean female soldiers volunteer for ‘the face’
North Korean armed forces number nearly 1.2 million, of which 40 per cent are female soldiers. The term of military service is 12 years for men, 7 years for women.
Women receive the same training as men, if not in harsher conditions. While male soldiers have the option to attack private homes to survive, female soldiers solely rely on the supply from the authorities. In these circumstances, it is in the female soldiers’ best interest to find a way to improve the quality of their supplies.
31-year-old refugee Ahn Jung Ran served in the 7th brigade stationed in Pyongyang as a first lieutenant until recently. She testified, “To lead a life as a woman in North Korean society is difficult. Basic rights are even less present for women serving in the military. The nutrition supply is inadequate, and feminine hygiene is not assured. While many women curse their gender though, some female soldiers’ life takes a dramatic turn. They are the selected ones out of the senior cadre’s interest, and supplies and hygiene measures are relatively highly maintained for them in the units they serve”.
Ahn says, “Military cadre show personal interest in female soldiers who are attractive in appearance, and commanding officers take advantage of the sex related corruption to maintain their units. Some units pay bribes to senior cadre with selected ones from their units as sexual favors, in order to secure supplies. Soldiers who serve as ‘the face’ are exempted from training and receive preferential treatment. Female soldiers sent out to training tend to have this in common – they are more ordinary or less attractive”.
Ahn added, “Some officers in charge of female soldiers obtain information prior to a senior cadre’s visit so they can assign attractive female soldiers to serve then as mount guard, medic duty, and kitchen duty. In some occasions, there is special training on language and behaviour to better serve and please the cadre. If they succeed in satisfying the officers, the unit supplies can dramatically improve. It is not surprising that officers invest time and effort into taking in attractive female soldiers to the unit”.
It is said “A gorgeous woman can change a unit’s tradition and fate” in North Korea. It sums up the status of the North Korean women’s military.
By Lee Cheol-mu.
Read in Korean.
Translated by Jinny Lee. Edited by Shirley Lee.