'Dollar Tickets' Buy Favorable Military Posts

Seol Song Ah  |  2015-03-26 17:05
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With the March military draft season in full motion, mobilization officials in North Korea are said to be receiving bribes from conscripts in exchange for favorable postings, Daily NK has learned. 

When conscription begins, the mobilization units naturally start digging for bribes. The entire process is driven by it, a source in Gangwon Province told Daily NK on Wednesday. Party cadres receive bribes from the parents of draftees and then assign them to areas like the Pyongyang guard service, the general rear service department, military police, and border areas, where rations are regular and working conditions are relatively superior. 

She added, Each year, the number of conscripts is based on those discharged, so mobilization officials can actually start calculating the volume of bribes that will pour in during the season. Soldiers sent to Panmunjom and the air force are handpicked based on songbun [family political background and loyalty] and their physique, but in the case of other places it all depends on the mobilization unit, so up to 500 USD in bribes are passed around for the fate of just one conscript."

When the staff officers for favored units visit the mobilization office, those who have received bribes will single out the files for the affiliated conscripts and secretly hand them over. The files also contain cash gifts, and those dollar conscripts are assigned to those units rather than other draftees better suited for the post, according to the source. 

Officers such as majors or colonels pay bribes to Ministry of Peoples Armed Forces officials before they are discharged so as to be assigned to the mobilization unit. Being an officer there for three years can bring in tens of thousands of dollars in bribes, allowing them to amass considerable wealth and build their own homes. Needless to say, such positions are highly coveted. 

Conscripts with good songbun and powerful parents prefer the guard service in Pyongyang, Ministry of Public Security, Panmunjom, and the air force, while those with bad songbun can use bribes to get assigned to the military police or the rear service. In particularly auspicious instances they are permitted to commute from home. 

The source noted the Ministry of Public Security as especially popular with Party cadres, the donju [the new affluent middle class], and general members of the public; this popularity bumps the asking price to secure such positions up to more than 500 USD. 

Another sought-after position is that of a military driver for general commanders or brigadiers. Those with neither good songbun nor wealth, such as the children of ordinary enterprise workers, end up being assigned to construction units in the mountains and are subjected to extreme hardships resulting from incessant manual labor. 

Some conscripts try to use the gift money they receive from relatives and elders in the village ahead of their military service as bribes in a bid to evade--at the very least-- the construction unit, but this often fails, she said, adding that some of the most self-sacrificing just hand the money over to their mothers to use for doing business at the markets. 

In the 1980s and 90s, bribes to mobilization officials were usually television sets, fabrics for clothing, and freezers; however, the 2000s saw a decided shift in these practices, with cash bribes becoming the new norm. In more recent years the cash must be presented in foreign currency, typically USD, and the act is known as buying a ticket for conscripts. People are told to get dollar tickets if they dont want to languish in the military, the source concluded. 

*The contents of this article were broadcast to the North Korean people via Unification Media Group.

*Translated by Jiyeon Lee

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