North Korea has ordered its armed forces to hold an appreciation day for the country’s soldiers, accompanied by a feast of dog meat that is supposed to boost their stamina, with military officials required to foot the bill, said to RFA from military sources.
As the country’s economy falters under the combined weight of years of international nuclear sanctions and an almost complete suspension of imports due to the coronavirus pandemic, military units in North Korea are under-equipped and malnourished .
Even before the pandemic, it was not uncommon for soldiers in rural areas to spend much of the year working on farms growing maize, rice and other staples to feed their units.
Soldiers’ Day is an annual event created by the country’s leader Kim Jong Un so that the country’s fighters can enjoy a decent meal for a change. Some years, military units may choose to hold it in the dead of winter and other years during the hottest days of summer.
But this year, Soldier’s Day is literally one of the so-called scorching days of summer.
“The General Political Bureau of the Korean People’s Army has ordered to hold Soldiers’ Day during the hottest time of this summer,” a military source from northeast Hamgyong Province told the service. Korean from FRG.
“According to the order, all military officials must provide one dog for every two officials to feed soldiers on soldiers’ day, and officials strongly oppose the order,” said the source, who requested anonymity. to express themselves freely.
Meat of any kind in North Korea is hard to find, and dog meat, considered a summer delicacy with properties believed to increase virility, is expensive.
Although many North Korean officials can use their authority to collect bribes, many military officials without interaction with the public cannot supplement their income with bribes, so buy meat from them. dog is a major expense, according to the source.
âThey have to use their own money to pay for dog meat at the market, unless they have a dog at home,â the source said.
“If they do not comply with the order, on the pretext that they have no money, officials and even their families will face the humiliation of having to be publicly criticized for negligence in carrying out the duties. orders from Supreme Commander Kim Jong Un, so there are many military officials who borrow money to buy dog ââmeat, âthe source said.
The source said that in recent years, Soldiers’ Day has been a burden on military officials and their families as they have to prepare a feast for the soldiers, but this year the additional requirement to provide dog meat to them. puts even more strain. and their families.
âThose responsible are resisting the coercive order from the authorities because nowadays even military officials do not receive enough supplies and their families suffer from hunger.
Another military source, from the northwestern province of North Pyongan, told RFA that dog meat sellers there raised their prices after learning about the order.
âIt was 15,000 won (US $ 2.50) per kilogram (2.2 pounds), but now it’s 20,000 won, and the price of a whole dog has risen to over 200,000 won, so military officials are worried, “the second source said. , who requested anonymity to speak freely.
The price of a kilogram of rice on the same day was around 6,200 won ($ 0.99), according to figures from Japan. AsiaPress. the Korea Joongang Daily reported in 2018 that the average monthly salary provided by the government was 4,000 won at the time, worth about $ 0.50.
The cost of complying with the Dog Meat Ordinance is so high that some officials are even risking their lives to comply.
âA few days ago, an accident happened to a non-commissioned officer of a unit of the 8e Body as he tried to board a train with beans in his backpack which he obtained from his wife’s family, which he intended to use to buy a dog for the lean day. The second source said.
“He could not support the weight of the backpack and fell off the train and died,” the second source said.
The order has made military officials question why they are being forced to sacrifice everything for dog meat, when they are already struggling to eat, according to the source.
“The General Political Bureau has not taken into account the real situation of the military units and only uses them to look good on the Commander-in-Chief,” said the second source.
âMilitary officials say they don’t understand who the People’s Army is really aimed at.
Dog meat is available in markets in North Korea and South Korea, but the dog meat trade has questionable legality in the South. In 2018, a South Korean court ruled that killing dogs for their meat was illegal, but the law did not specifically prohibit the sale or consumption of dog meat.
North Korea’s total military count of 1.47 million in 2018 ranked it third in the world that year, behind only China and India, and the country remains technically at war with South Korea. and its ally the United States.
According to 2019 data from the CIA World Factbook, North Korea spent 22-24% of its GDP on its military, or around US $ 3.7-4.2 billion annually between 2007 and 2017.
Reported by Myung Chul Lee for the RFA Korean service. Translated by Jinha Shin. Edited by EugÃ¨ne Whong.