North Korean Troops Are Starving and Have to Steal or Die, Says Defector

By Jack Phillips, Epoch Times
March 10, 2015 1:51 pm Last Updated: March 10, 2015 2:22 pm

A defector from North Korea has admitted that soldiers, including the country’s special forces, are currently hard-hit by food shortages like the rest of the country’s population.

The defector, who used the pseudonym Kim Gil-su, was a career military officer in his 40’s. He escaped through China last year and just gave his first interview, to the Washington Free Beacon.

He said there appears to be rampant starvation in the military, but he stipulated that military officers are treated much better than low-ranking soldiers. The lower-ranking soldiers get meals consisting of “corn rice,” which is ground corn made to look like rice, he said.

The lower ranking troops, he said, “are very young and strong and are really energetic and require food. But such needs are not met by the military. So some soldiers try to escape the military. Some steal food just to live.”

Describing it as a “serious situation,” Kim said that soldiers “who are alert, go out and steal some food, they eat it and they can survive.”

He added, “Those who are really conservative and diligent do not go out stealing, so they suffer from hunger, they got weak and they die. I buried seven people, my friends who starved to death.”

He also talked about how the populace views leader Kim Jong-un.

“Kim Jong-un repeatedly states that he will improve the livelihood of ordinary people but nothing has really changed,” he told the Free Beacon. “There have been no concrete actions to improve the livelihood of the people, so people no longer trust Kim Jong-un’s words and statements.”

A farmer carries a fully grown cabbage after plucking it out from the main crop which will be harvested early next month, and used to make Kimchi, Friday, Oct. 24, 2014 at the Chilgol vegetable farm on the outskirts of Pyongyang, North Korea. It looks like the residents of Pyongyang won't be lacking for cabbage and vegetables come next month, when the crops will be harvested. Providing enough food to feed the nation is always a struggle for North Korea, which suffered a near cataclysmic famine in the 1990s but has since managed to increase its agricultural production to what international organizations believe is closer to the self-sufficiency level than the country has seen in years. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
A farmer carries a fully grown cabbage after plucking it out from the main crop which will be harvested early next month, and used to make Kimchi, Friday, Oct. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

 

A North Korea woman soldier patrols the bank of the Yalu River in North Korea. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)
A North Korea woman soldier patrols the bank of the Yalu River in North Korea. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

The military officer spoke of the hardships of life in the isolated, communist country, and he noted there is instability growing inside the country.

“The so-called mosquito net should be destroyed so that other ideas and ideologies can enter North Korean society and help collapse the regime,” the officer said. “Otherwise if the regime continues, the country will experience a very serious internal explosion throughout the population,” Kim added.

The defector said he was part of North Korea’s Storm Corps, which human rights groups say are used to crack down on dissent. 

To escape, Kim said he swam across a river with a knife in his mouth to get to China.

And for what purpose did he have the knife? “I had no other place to carry it while swimming and I needed it in case I had to fight security officers or to commit suicide, if I was captured,” he said.

Throughout its existence, North Korea has been racked by food shortages and outright famines. North Korea economy expert Marcus Noland said in 2013 that Pyongyang is “clearly culpable” in the food shortages, according to Radio Free Asia. “The North Korean government did not and continues not to use the resources available at its disposal to address the lack of food among the populace, and when aid was offered, it hindered and continues to hinder the operation of relief programs,” he said.