On June 25, 2001, Kim Jong Il inspected a unit of the KPA.
After seeing the women soldiers under training, he called them.
He asked them their names, native places and stature.
Saying that they were robust but looked short, he asked one of them:
“When did you join the army?”
“In Pyongyang in the spring of 1998.”
“As you joined the army in 1998, you lived at home in 1996 and 1997 when rice was most lacking.”
“Didn’t you suffer from a lack of rice?”
The soldier dropped her head, not responding.
“Have you skipped meals at home?”
“No. I have not skipped…”
“You hail from Pyongyang, so I think you got along quite all right. But Pyongyang citizens, too, suffered a lot from a shortage of food during the Arduous March. At that time everyone endured hunger to defend socialism.”
The General paused for a while, as if he was recollecting the days of the Arduous March when the people made painstaking efforts to defend socialism in the face of the imperialists’ moves to suffocate the country and blockade it economically.
Then he asked another soldier standing nearby.
“When did you join the army?”
“In April 1998.”
“As you joined the army in 1998, you, too, have experienced hardships during the Arduous March.”
“Have you ever skipped meals at home?”
“No. I …”
“Well, how many meals have you skipped for a lack of rice?
“Tell me frankly.”
“I have not skipped meals and I usually ate gruel.”
“You ate gruel. Where did you get rice?”
“My mother… at a market,” the girl began crying.
“Well. Don’t cry,” the General soothed her.
Collecting himself, he turned round and said to the officials:
“I don’t believe that children in provinces have not skipped meals.
“Perhaps, these girls are saying that they have not skipped meals because they do not want to worry me. As you know, all the people in the country lived on gruel mixed with vegetables at that time.”
The girls were sobbing.
One of them said to him, calming down, “At that time you suffered more than us. We all know that you led the Arduous March to victory, eating gruel as the people did. We will not forget it for ever.”
He regarded the soldier with teary eyes and asked again, “Have you skipped a meal after joining the army?”
“What about now? Are you good?”
“We are really happy now. Under your close concern we are serving the army without feeling hunger or cold.
“We only wish you good health.”
He clapped her on the shoulder and said to the officials.
“As we underwent the Arduous March, children in the growing period were poorly fed, so these girls are not tall enough. It breaks my heart to recollect those days.”
The officials were choked with emotion, and he said to the officers of the unit:
“You should understand my intention well and take good care of the soldiers’ living with parental affection.
“Our soldiers are true revolutionaries who, far away from their native homes and parents, are devoting their dreamful youth at the posts of national defence whether they are recognized or not.
“Taking good care of the soldiers’ living is the officials’ intrinsic duty and moral obligation.
“As I stress time and again, the officers should always remember that their men may feel cold and hungry, when they feel warm and full. They should take good care of their men’s living.”