This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
North Korea’s military has ordered officials to procure dog meat to improve the health of their soldiers during the hottest days of the summer, leaving them to foot the bill for the canines, according to sources inside the country with knowledge of the situation.
The reclusive, nuclear-armed state boasts the world’s second-largest military, with nearly 30% of the North Korean population actively serving in reserve or in a paramilitary capacity.
And while the Kim Jong Un regime typically directs a sizable portion of the nation’s harvests to the military, soldiers are often malnourished and forced to supplement their rations on their own.
Earlier this month, North Korea’s General Political Bureau issued a directive to provide “healthy food” to Korean People’s Army soldiers on the hottest days of the summer “at all costs,” a source with ties to the military in North Hamgyong province told RFA Korean.
“Dangogi-jang [dog meat stew] was guaranteed as a healthy food to be provided,” said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity citing fear of reprisal.
Three officials from each department of a military unit were instructed to divide up the rations and provide them to the unit’s 60-120 soldiers “on a daily basis,” but were never provided with a budget.
“Some of the officials don’t raise dogs at home, so they have to buy [dog meat] at the market,” the source said. “For now, rations are not supplied to military officials [for the dog meat stew] and the burden has shifted [to them] under various pretexts. This is making life difficult for the officials.”
According to the source, the price of a dog weighing 12 kilograms (26 pounds) is 200,000 won (US$24) at the market.
But with salaries of 2,500-7,000 won (US$0.30-0.84) per month, the officials have “nowhere near enough” to buy them.
“Military officials and their families are not comfortable following the order to provide healthy food for the soldiers,” the source said.
“To prepare everything by themselves without any support is a big burden. They have to sell something at the market, buy a dog with the money they receive, process the dog at home, and feed the soldiers on the assigned day.”
A second source with military connections in North Pyongan province noted that for “several months,” not even regular rations have been consistently provided to military officials for their soldiers.
“It is a major burden for officials, who are already struggling to make a living, to prepare healthy food for their soldiers,” he said. “Many officials are dissatisfied with the authorities for assigning these kinds of tasks while ignoring the living conditions of the officials and their families.”
Last month, North Korean residents complained to RFA about being overworked in preparation for the 70th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended hostilities in the 1950-53 Korean War, held on July 27.
In addition to dropping everything to beautify their towns, practice for dancing and sports competitions, and attend educational lectures, all citizens were required to donate 3,000 won (U.S.$0.27) to support the People’s Army, which is enough to feed an entire family for a day.