North Korean Military Attempts to Foil The West

Pyongyang pushes the people to collect the aluminum foil wrappers from cigarette packs as it seeks reflective camouflage.

This undated photo released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) at the defence detachment on Mahap Islet in Ongjin County, South Hwanghae, Nov. 11, 2016.

The North Korean regime’s latest weapon in its attempt to foil the West comes in a cigarette pack as Pyongyang is enlisting citizens to collect the packs' aluminum-laminated liners for use as military camouflage, sources tell RFA’s Korean Service.

“The central authorities are collecting tinfoil to support the military,” a source in North Hamgyong province told RFA. “While tinfoil is used inside a pack of filter cigarettes, it now has a military purpose.”

While most people call it tinfoil, a cigarette pack’s inner liner is usually an aluminum foil and paper laminate. North Korean authorities say that the foil from cigarette packs and other bits are being used to cover sensitive military facilities.

“The order to get tinfoil was originally given last June, but it was moved back because of other urgent supporting businesses,” the source said. “However, the command has been given again to schools by (the surveillance organization) In-Min-Ban this month. Other relevant organizations are also under pressure to collect tinfoil.”

As part of the effort, young school children are pressed into service to collect the inner wrappers from cigarette packs.

“As the command has been repeated, small school children go out and pick up the empty cigarette packs,” the source said.

And if a North Korean doesn’t smoke or collect much foil, the authorities will gladly take cash in lieu of the material.

“In-Min-Ban asks people who cannot offer tinfoil to pay cash instead,” said the source. “The authorities say it’s to support the North Korea People’s Army, but most people think it’s just an excuse to collect money.”

'Something that does not amount to a row of beans'

Another source in North Hamgyong province told RFA that facilities at the Rochon military base in the province are now covered by foil.

“It is used specifically as a camouflage net for anti-aircraft machine guns  deployed near the Sunam market,” that source said. “It has become an attraction to many residents.”

The North Korean authorities are telling the country’s citizens that the foil deflects satellite photos, allowing the military to keep its secrets more easily.

To some North Koreans, the foil drive is another example of the government’s inability to field an effective military force.

“The residents do not care about the authorities’ military secrets or the military situation," the source said. “The authorities cannot feed the soldiers properly, so the number of soldiers who suffer from malnutrition is increasing. In this circumstance, what is going to change even if military facilities are disguised?”

While the Pyongyang is pushing the foil collection, ordinary North Koreans see it as a joke.

“The residents mock the authorities for collecting something that does not amount to a row of beans,” said one of the North Hamgyong sources.

With the foil drive, North Korean citizens question whether or not a military that has to use waste from discarded cigarette packs is up to the job.

“The residents are laughing at the authorities’ command because the authorities ask for supplies for the military facilities,” the other source added. “They criticize whether the North Korea People’s Army, which uses waste tinfoil for camouflage, is a proper army when advanced weapons are used in modern times.”

Reported by Jieun Kim for RFA’s Korea Service. Translated by Soo Min Jo. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.