Military service for males is mandatory, and most are conscripted upon graduation from higher middle (high) or vocational schools (junior colleges). Males with less than three years of employment experience are also considered for conscription.

    Candidates for officers are selected from the enlisted ranks, and candidates receive officers' training at either Kanggun Military Academy, the Kim Jung-sook Naval Academy, or Kim Chaek Air Force Academy. Political officers are picked by the party and receive their commissions after education at Kim Il-sung Political University.

    High schools hold graduation ceremonies in either August or September, and approximately seventy-five to eighty percent of all conscripts are selected during that time, with the remainder usually made up in March or April. This pre-1995 pattern has drastically changed by high schools adjusting graduation dates to March or April, and conscription has shifted accordingly, and conscriptions are conducted around the year when there are not enough people in armed forces units.

    Military Mobilization Offices at the city and county levels are responsible for the initial conscription and basic physical exams, and the records are passed on to the provincial mobilization office for thorough examination, in addition to basic physical fitness tests. The conscripts are then assigned wherever they are needed.

    Ten-year service is mandatory for all conscripts and enlisted personnel according to a directive issued by Kim Jong-il in April 1993. The system was again revised in October 1996, to require service until the age of thirty for men and twenty-six for women, and twenty-eight being the limit for women officers. All junior officers under company commander level are now required residence inside their base or unit barracks until the age of thirty and are forbidden to marry while on the base.

    A decrease in the number of volunteers for occupations requiring heavy or hard work has been marked in recent years due to influx of "capitalist" or "materialistic" influences through the porous border. It has prompted the government to introduce a system of 'labor service', where an individual can be exempted from military service for six to seven years' labor at mines or other workplaces.