In an effort to strengthen their military forces, North Korea announced that it will make military service mandatory for women.

The Guardian reports:

The measure is said to apply to women aged between 17 and 20, and has been handed down to mobilisation offices in each province, city, and county. Implementation is reported to be already underway.

"Late last year, we received orders for all women who have graduated from middle and high school to undergo mandatory military service," a source based in North Hamkyung Province told Daily NK this week.

"The preliminary screening and physicals related to enlistment, which begins in April, are all complete and duty sectors have been organised," the source said.

Unlike their male counterparts who serve a mandatory 10 years, women will only be required to serve until their 23rd birthday. According to reports, the military has enlisted women to make up for a shortfall in its numbers. The shortage of men is likely the result of "high child mortality rate and low birth rate stemming from the Arduous March, the name given to the North Korean famine in the 1990s."

Experts on the country have suggested that the measure has caused concerns among North Korean citizens because women "tend to be key breadwinners for their families."

Image via AP.