Special North Korean Military Investigation Reveals Combat Reserve Supply Shortages

Officers could be punished for authorizing use of stockpiled food, fuel and medicine.
Special North Korean Military Investigation Reveals Combat Reserve Supply Shortages In a photo taken on December 17, 2019 Korean People's Army (KPA) soldiers make their way to pay their respects to late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, on the anniversary of his death, at Mansu Hill in Pyongyang.

A North Korean investigation into military combat reserve supplies has revealed shoddy maintenance and discrepancies between inventory records and actual supplies of food, fuel and medicine, sources in the military told RFA.

North Korea’s total military personnel 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.

“In accordance with Central Military Commission order 0035 issued in early June, we are conducting an intensive inspection of the storage maintenance status of combat reserve supplies,” a member of the North Korean military in the northwestern province of North Pyongan told RFA’s Korean Service Wednesday. 

“The Ministry of People’s Armed Forces, the General Staff Department, the General Political Bureau, the General Rear Services Bureau and the Military Security Command of the Korean People’s Army have jointly organized inspection teams and have been inspecting the storage maintenance status of combat reserve supplies for all military units since June 10th,” said the source, who requested anonymity to speak freely.

According to the source, the ministry and the staff department inspect units of corps level or above twice per year and three times per year for divisions and brigades, and once per quarter for units of the regiment level or lower.

“The regular inspection in the first half of this year has revealed a lot of issues such as poor maintenance of wartime reserve supplies and insufficient quantity compared to written records. This is why the Party’s Central Military Commission has issued a special inspection order,” the source said.

“Because of the serious issues in the storage and maintenance of combat reserve supplies were reported to the Central Party, this special inspection was organized,” said the source.

“In addition to the punishment of those who are found at fault in the military-wide intensive inspection, the project to distribute combat reserve materials according to demand will also be under review," said the source.

“All units have been specifically asked whether they comply with the directive that requires them to create combat reserve supplies by contributing five percent of the daily supplies guaranteed by the state and of military supplies they themselves produce,” the source said.

The inspection is underway simultaneously in all branches of the military and all units, according to the source.

Another military member in North Hamgyong province in the country’s northeast told RFA Thursday that commanding officers of all ranks and staff members are worried because they could face immediate punishment for not properly maintaining reserve supplies or if the supplies they manage are damaged or otherwise not usable.

“The main focus of this inspection is on supplies like wartime fuel, food, combat suites and medicine. All units typically lack fuel, food and medicine so they often secretly dip into their reserves,” the second source said.

“This is why a lot of units have less supplies in reserve than what is listed in records. Since the start of the inspection, officers are quickly seeking help from social institutions or the wealthy class to fill their shortages.”

According to 2019 data from the CIA World Factbook, North Korea spent between 22 and 24 percent of its GDP on its military, or roughly U.S. $3.7 billion to $4.2 billion each year between 2007 and 2017.

Reported by Myungchul Lee for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Jinha Shin. Written in English by Eugene Whong.


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