N Korea cuts height for conscripts

2012-04-02 15:01
Seoul - North Korea has reduced the minimum height requirement for military conscripts because the current generation facing call-up was stunted by a deadly 1990s famine, a report said on Monday.

Daily NK, a Seoul-based online newspaper run by North Korean defectors, said the military has cut the minimum height to 142cm from 145 cm.

All able-bodied North Korean males aged 16-17 must begin mandatory service that lasts about a decade. Women deemed fit must also serve for a shorter period in the 1.2 million-strong military, the world's fourth largest.

"There were too many short boys who don't meet the previous height requirement... so the military is now accepting all who are taller than 142cm," said a North Korean source quoted by Daily NK.

The average height for South Korean boys of the same age is about 172 cm.

North Korean boys facing conscription this year were born in the mid-1990s - at the height of the famine that devastated the impoverished communist state and killed hundreds of thousands.

Shrinking generation

Child mortality during this period was high and the fertility rate low, causing an acute shortage of new conscripts, said the source.

"North Koreans say the country's new generation is shrinking in size," said the source, adding the army was still struggling to find enough new troops even after relaxing the physical requirements.

UN agencies, after a visit to the North, estimated last November that three million people would need food aid in 2012.

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, after a separate visit last October, said that in northern regions almost one in two children were chronically malnourished.

Read more on:    un  |  north korea

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