NYT Columnist Repeats North Korean Propaganda on Social Media

North Korea People's Army / Getty Images
September 29, 2017

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof on Friday echoed North Korean propaganda that says droves of its citizens are signing up to join the military after President Donald Trump's speech before the United Nations General Assembly last week.

Kristof wrote on Instagram that "every kid" at a high school in North Korea "supposedly signed up to join the army after the Trump speech to the U.N," referring to Trump's address on Sept. 19 when he said the U.S. will "totally destroy North Korea" if forced to defend itself or its allies.

"They said they'll keep studying until war breaks out, which some say could happen any time," Kristof continued. "It's all part of a mass ideological mobilization—yet here the kids are still practicing their singing. At a factory, the manager likewise told me that all 1,500 employees had signed up for the army in Monday, yet they were still at work."

Kristof's comments echo propaganda that North Korea has publicized since Trump's speech, claiming that nearly 5 million North Korean citizens—men, women, and children—have offered to join or re-enlist in the Korean People's Army following the president's U.N. address.

According to the state-run Korean Central News Agency, about 4.7 million devout "students and workers" have "volunteered" to join the military to prepare for war with the U.S.

Such massive increases are nothing new when tensions between Washington and Pyongyang escalate, however. In August, for example, the government said that 3.5 million people volunteered to join or re-join the military after the U.N. imposed new sanctions on North Korea.

Neither Kristof nor North Korea's official media noted that it is mandatory for most North Korean citizens, including women, to serve in the military. Men must serve 10 years, and women must join for seven years, according to press reports. All school children, therefore, would have to eventually serve in the military.

Soldiers in North Korea undergo harsh conditions and, according to the Guardian, are only given two or three potatoes a meal, or are fed solely on raw corn kernels or corn rice.

Daily Beast reporter Lachlan Markay flagged Kirstof's social media post on Twitter, writing that Kristof was "parroting DPRK propaganda," using the acronym for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"All North Koreans, men and women, are conscripted," Markay wrote. "Trump's speech had nothing to do with it."