Leadership: Feeding the Oppressor


January 10, 2006: In 2005, North Korea reversed years of declining training and readiness in its armed forces. Exercises by ground and air units increased by about 25 percent over the previous year. Training levels, however, are still very low. Combat pilots get only a few dozen flying hours, at most, each year. Ground troops fire their weapons rarely, and vehicles are operated by drivers who got most of their training on crude simulators. The troops get plenty of physical exercise, although some of it is farm work and other manual labor. Moreover, the last few years worth of conscripts are noticeably smaller than the older ones (you are drafted for six years in North Korea), a result of the famine in the 1990s that left over two million dead. Children growing up during the 1990s had their growth stunted because of food shortages. While more abundant food in the army can fill these kids out, they can't make up for the short stature and infirmities that accompany prolonged periods of malnutrition. Aid groups have long complained about food aid, intended for starving civilians, being diverted to the military. The increased military training has also consumed money and fuel that could have been used to aid starving and poverty stricken North Koreans. But the North Korean government is running a police state, and depends on the military to help maintain control.


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