The North Korean state daily reported that around 8,00,000 North Korean youth offered their voluntary services to the DPRK military, in its fight against the United States and its allies. This report comes in the wake of escalating tensions in the Korean Peninsula.
The citizens that offered to enlist or reenlist, mostly constitute students and employed individuals from across the nation. The national daily reported that this is indicative of a huge groundswell of support towards the DPRK’s cause among the youth. This includes fighting against the anti-socialist efforts of the US-led forces.
The group of volunteers is termed the ‘youth vanguard’. They have openly pledged to wipe out North Korea’s enemies and bring about Korean reunification. The age-based demographic breakup of the group has not been provided by the daily. It is nonetheless heralded as a display of North Korean patriotic and nationalistic fervor, among the youth of the nation.
The overwhelming support for the military was expressed at a public event organized by the government. Large rows of people have been pictured, awaiting their turn to enlist in the army, outside theaters and construction sites. According to sources, the military enlistment rate in North Korea is steadily increasing and reflects the success of state propaganda.
It was back in June 2020, that similar state rallies were organized by the government. In these rallies, the government spread anti-South Korean propaganda. Violent threats were issued against South Korea openly, demanding the takedown of anti-North Korean banners at the border. These were commonly held before 2018, up until more cordial relations developed between the United States and the DPRK.
The reports and images of the enlistment rallies have been released a day after news broke of the DPRK firing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), termed ‘Hwasong-17’. North Korea has confirmed that the missile traveled around 1000 km and finally alighted at the East Sea of Korea, also termed the ‘Sea of Japan’. The destination of the missile was predetermined and it accurately struck the target location, right between Japan and Korea.
The launch of the ICBM into eastern waters coincided with the first leadership summit between Korea and Japan, in years. Pyongyang conducted the third missile test, a few hours before, the South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol boarded his flight to Japan. The summit was being held to discuss the building tensions with the DPRK.
The launch of the ICBM has also been declared to be in response to the ongoing military drill between the United States and South Korea. The 11-day joint military drill is termed ‘Freedom Shield 23’ and is being conducted to manage the evolving North Korean threat. The DPRK has condemned the exercise as a provocative action. It was also claimed that the US was setting the stage for an invasion.
The launch of ballistic missiles by North Korea is prohibited under the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. It has led to condemnation of the DPRK’s actions by the Korean, US, and Japanese governments.
Professor Leif Eric Easley of Ewha Womans University, Seoul, remarked that the military exercise and summit could prompt North Korea to retaliate in numerous ways. It could fire longer-range missiles, hold nuclear tests, conduct spy satellite launches, and so on, escalating tensions even further.