Korean People's Army
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Juche (state ideology)
Songun ("military-first" policy)
* Eternal leaders of
* Chairman :
* Congress (7th )
* Central Committee (7th )
* Executive Policy Bureau
Kim Jong-un *
Organization and Guidance Department
Kimilsungist-Kimjongilist Youth League
State Affairs Commission
* Korean People's
Army Supreme Commander :
* Cabinet Premier :
* Judiciary Supreme Court
* Legislature President :
Kim Yong-nam Presidium
* Recent elections
* Parliamentary: 2003
* Local: 2007
* FIRST-LEVEL Provinces
* THIRD-LEVEL Eup (city) Dong (neighborhood) Ri (village)
Rodonjagu (workers' district)
* Minister of Foreign Affairs
* Diplomatic missions
* Passport Visa requirements
* Human rights
* Kim dynasty
* Illicit activities
(Enforcement • Security Ministry )
* Other countries
The KOREAN PEOPLE\'S ARMY (KPA; Chosŏn\'gŭl : 조선인민군;
Chosŏn inmin'gun) constitutes the military force of
North Korea and,
Songun policy, the central institution of North Korean
Kim Jong-un is the Supreme Commander of the Korean People\'s
Army and Chairman of the Central
Military Commission . The KPA defence
force consists of five branches: Ground Force , the Navy , the Air
Force , the Strategic Rocket Forces , and the
Special Operation Force
Worker-Peasant Red Guards also come under control of the KPA.
The KPA faces its primary adversaries, the Republic of Korea Armed
United States Forces Korea , across the Korean
Demilitarized Zone , as it has since the Armistice Agreement of July
1953. As of 2016 , with 5,889,000 paramilitary personnel, it is the
largest paramilitary organization on Earth . This number represents
25% of the North Korean population.
* 1 History
* 1.1 Conflicts and events
* 2 Organization
* 2.1 Commission and leadership
Conscription and terms of service
* 2.3 Budget and commercial interests
* 3 Service branches
* 3.1 People\'s Ground Force
* 3.2 People\'s Navy
* 3.3 People\'s
Army Air Force and Air Defence Forces
* 3.4 People\'s Strategic Rocket Forces
Special Forces (11th Sniper Brigade)
* 3.6 Worker-Peasant Red Guard Militia
* 4 Capabilities
* 5.1 Weapons
* 5.2 Chemical weapons
* 5.3 Nuclear weapons
* 5.3.1 Nuclear tests
* 5.3.2 Other
* 6 See also
* 7 Notes
* 8 References
* 9 Further reading
* 10 External links
A monument in Pyongyang, depicting North Korean airmen and a MiG
North Korea officially dates the foundation of the KPA back to the
Kim Il-sung 's anti-Japanese guerrilla army. In 1978,
Military Foundation Day" was changed from 8 February to 25 April, the
nominal day of establishment of this army in 1932.
In 1939, the Korean Volunteer
Army (KVA), was formed in Yan\'an ,
China. The two individuals responsible for the army were Kim Tu-bong
and Mu Chong. At the same time, a school was established near Yan'an
for training military and political leaders for a future independent
Korea. By 1945, the KVA had grown to approximately 1,000 men, mostly
Korean deserters from the
Imperial Japanese Army . During this period,
the KVA fought alongside the Chinese communist forces from which it
drew its arms and ammunition. After the defeat of the Japanese, the
KVA accompanied the Chinese communist forces into eastern
intending to gain recruits from ethnic
Koreans in China , particularly
Yanbian , and then enter Korea. By September 1945, the KVA had a
2,500 strong force at its disposal.
World War II
World War II and during the Soviet Union's occupation of
the part of Korea north of the 38th Parallel, the Soviet 25th Army
Pyongyang issued a statement ordering all armed
resistance groups in the northern part of the peninsula to disband on
12 October 1945. Two thousand Koreans with previous experience in the
Soviet army were sent to various locations around the country to
organize constabulary forces with permission from Soviet military
headquarters, and the force was created on 21 October 1945.
The headquarters felt a need for a separate unit for security around
railways, and the formation of the unit was announced on 11 January
1946. That unit was activated on 15 August of the same year to
supervise existing security forces and creation of the national armed
Military institutes such as the
Pyongyang Academy (became No. 2 KPA
Officers School in Jan. 1949) and the Central
Military Academy in Dec. 1948) soon followed for education
of political and military officers for the new armed forces.
After the military was organized and facilities to educate its new
recruits were constructed, the
Constabulary Discipline Corps was
reorganized into the Korean People's
Army General Headquarters. The
previously semi-official units became military regulars with
distribution of Soviet uniforms, badges, and weapons that followed the
inception of the headquarters.
The State Security Department, a forerunner to the Ministry of
People's Defense, was created as part of the Interim People's
Committee on 4 February 1948. The formal creation of the Korean
Army was announced on four days later on 8 February, the day
after the Fourth Plenary Session of the People’s Assembly approved
the plan to separate the roles of the military and those of the
police, seven months before the government of the Democratic People's
Republic of Korea was proclaimed on 9 September 1948. In addition, the
Ministry of State for the People's Armed Forces was established, which
controlled a central guard battalion, two divisions, and an
independent mixed and combined arms brigade.
CONFLICTS AND EVENTS
The Memorial of Soldiers at the Mansudae Grand Monument
Before the outbreak of the Korean War,
Joseph Stalin equipped the KPA
with modern tanks, trucks, artillery, and small arms (at the time, the
Army had nothing remotely comparable either in numbers of
troops or equipment). During the opening phases of the
Korean War in
1950, the KPA quickly drove South Korean forces south and captured
Seoul , only to lose 70,000 of their 100,000-strong army in the autumn
after U.S. amphibious landings at the
Battle of Incheon and a
subsequent drive to the
Yalu River . On 4 November, China openly
staged a military intervention. On 7 December,
Kim Il-sung was
deprived of the right of command of KPA by China. The KPA
subsequently played a secondary minor role to Chinese forces in the
remainder of the conflict. By the time of the Armistice in 1953, the
KPA had sustained 290,000 casualties and lost 90,000 men as POWs.
In 1953, the
Military Armistice Commission (MAC) was able to oversee
and enforce the terms of the armistice. The Neutral Nations
Supervisory Commission (NNSC), originally made up of delegations from
Czechoslovakia and Hungary on the Communist side, and Sweden
Switzerland on the
United Nations side, monitored the activities
of the MAC.
Soviet thinking on the strategic scale was replaced since December
1962 with a people\'s war concept. The Soviet idea of direct warfare
was replaced with a Maoist war of attrition strategy. Along with the
mechanization of some infantry units, more emphasis was put on light
weapons, high-angle indirect fire, night fighting, and sea denial.
North Korean soldier, 2005.
COMMISSION AND LEADERSHIP
The primary path for command and control of the KPA extends through
the State Affairs Commission which was led by its chairman Kim Jong-il
until 2011, to the Ministry of People\'s Armed Forces and its General
Staff Department. From there on, command and control flows to the
various bureaus and operational units. A secondary path, to ensure
political control of the military establishment, extends through the
Workers\' Party of Korea 's Central
Military Commission of the
Workers\' Party of Korea .
Since 1990, numerous and dramatic transformations within the DPRK
have led to the current command and control structure. The details of
the majority of these changes are simply unknown to the world. What
little is known indicates that many changes were the natural result of
the deaths of the aging leadership including
Kim Il-sung (July 1994),
Minister of People's Armed Forces
O Chin-u (February 1995) and
Minister of People's Armed Forces
Choi Kwang (February 1997).
The vast majority of changes were undertaken to secure the power and
Kim Jong-il . Formerly the State Affairs Commission, from
its founding in 1972 (originally the
National Defence Commission ),
was part of the Central People's Committee while the Ministry of the
People's Armed Forces, from 1982 onward, was under direct presidential
control. At the Eighteenth session of the sixth Central People's
Committee, held on 23 May 1990, the SAC became established as its own
independent commission, rising to the same status as the CPC (now the
North Korea ) and not subordinated to it, as was the case
before. Concurrent with this,
Kim Jong-il was appointed first
vice-chairman of the State Affairs Commission. The following year, on
24 December 1991,
Kim Jong-il was appointed Supreme Commander of the
Army . Four months later, on 20 April 1992, Kim
Jong-il was awarded the rank of Marshal and his father, in virtue of
being the KPA's founding commander in chief, became Grand Marshal as a
result and one year later he became the Chairman of the State Affairs
Commission, by now under
Supreme People's Assembly
Supreme People's Assembly control under the
then 1992 constitution as amended.
Almost all officers of the KPA have begun their military careers as
privates; only very few people are admitted to a military academy
without prior service. The results is an egalitarian military system
where officers are familiar with the life of a military private and
"military nobility" is all but nonexistent.
Within the KPA, between December 1991 and December 1995, nearly 800
high officers (out of approximately 1,200) received promotions and
preferential assignments. Three days after
Kim Jong-il became Marshal,
eight generals were appointed to the rank of Vice-Marshal. In April
1997, on the 85th anniversary of Kim Il-sung\'s birthday , Kim Jong-il
promoted 127 general and admiral grade officers. The following April
he ordered the promotions of another 22 generals and flag officers.
Along with these changes many KPA officers were appointed to
influential positions within the Korean Workers' Party. These
promotions continue today, simultaneous with the celebration of Kim
Il-sung's birthday and the KPA anniversary celebrations every April
and since recently in July to honor the end of the Korean War. Under
Kim Jong-il's leadership, political officers dispatched from the party
monitored every move of a general’s daily life, according to
analysts similar to the work of Soviet political commissars during
the early and middle years of the military establishment.
Today the KPA exercises full control of both the Politburo and the
Military Commission of the WPK, the KPA General Political and
General Staff Departments and the Ministry of the People's Armed
Forces, all having KPA representatives with a minimum general officer
rank. Following changes made during the 4th session of the 13th
Supreme People’s Assembly on 29 June 2016, the State Affairs
Commission has overseen the Ministry of the People's Armed Forces as
part of its systemic responsibilities. All members of the State
Affairs Commission have membership status (regular or alternate) on
the WPK Political Bureau.
CONSCRIPTION AND TERMS OF SERVICE
North Korea has universal conscription for males and selective
conscription for females with many pre- and post-service requirements.
Article 86 of the North Korean Constitution states: "National defence
is the supreme duty and honour of citizens. Citizens shall defend the
country and serve in the armed forces as required by law."
KPA soldiers serve a minimum of 10 years of military service in the
KPA, which also runs its own factories, farms and trading arms.
The Young Red Guards are the youth cadet corps of the KPA for
secondary level and university level students. Every Saturday, they
hold mandatory 4-hour military training drills, and have training
activities on and off campus to prepare them for military service when
they turn 18 or after graduation, as well as for contingency measures
Under the Ministry of People\'s Security and the wartime control of
the Ministry of People\'s Armed Forces , and formerly the Korean
People's Security Forces, the Korean People\'s Internal Security
Forces forms the national gendarmerie and civil defense force of the
KPA. The KPISF has its units in various fields like civil defense,
traffic management, civil disturbance control, and local security. It
has its own special forces units. The service shares the ranks of the
KPA (with the exception of Marshals) but wears different uniforms.
BUDGET AND COMMERCIAL INTERESTS
The KPA's annual budget is approximately US$6 billion. The U.S.
Institute for Science and International Security reports that the DPRK
may possess fissile material for around two to nine nuclear warheads .
The North Korean
Military First") policy elevates the KPA to
the primary position in the government and society. Korean
Army vehicles on parade
According to North Korea\'s state news agency , military expenditures
for 2010 made up 15.8 percent of the state budget. Most analyses of
North Korea’s defense sector, however, estimate that defense
spending constitutes between one-quarter and one-third of all
government spending. As of 2003, according to the International
Institute of Strategic Studies, North Korea’s defense budget
consumed some 25 percent of central government spending. In the
mid-1970s and early 1980s, according to figures released by the Polish
Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, between 32 and 38 percent of
central government expenditures went towards defense. Vice
Jo Myong-rok meets
Bill Clinton at the White House, October
North Korea sells missiles and military equipment to many countries
worldwide. In April 2009, the
United Nations named the Korea Mining
and Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) as North Korea's primary
arms dealer and main exporter of equipment related to ballistic
missiles and conventional weapons. It also named Korea
Ryonbong as a
supporter of North Korea's military related sales.
North Korea has assisted a vast number of
revolutionary, insurgent and terrorist groups in more than 62
countries. A cumulative total of more than 5,000 foreign personnel
have been trained in North Korea, and over 7,000 military advisers,
primarily from the Reconnaissance Bureau , have been dispatched to
some forty-seven countries. Some of the organisations which received
North Korean aid include the
Polisario Front , Janatha Vimukthi
Peramuna , the
Communist Party of Thailand , the Palestine Liberation
Organization and the
Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution
Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution .
Zimbabwean Fifth Brigade received its initial training from KPA
instructors. North Korean troops allegedly saw combat during the
Libyan–Egyptian War and the
Angolan Civil War . Up to 200 KPAF
pilots took part in the
Vietnam War , scoring several kills against
US aircraft. Two KPA anti-aircraft artillery regiments were sent to
North Vietnam as well.
North Korean instructors trained
Hezbollah fighters in guerrilla
warfare tactics around 2004, prior to the
Second Lebanon War
Second Lebanon War . During
Syrian Civil War , Arabic-speaking KPA officers may have assisted
the Syrian Arab
Army in military operations planning and have
supervised artillery bombardments in the
PEOPLE\'S GROUND FORCE
Koksan , one of North Korea's principal heavy artillery pieces.
This example was captured in Iraq. DPRK soldiers standing at
the JSA between the blue buildings. Main article: Korean People\'s
Army Ground Force
Korean People's Army Ground Force (KPAGF) is the main branch of
the Korean People's
Army responsible for land-based military
operations. It is the de facto army of
North Korea .
Main article: Korean People\'s Navy
Korean People's Navy is organized into two fleets which are not
able to support each other. The East Fleet is headquartered at
T\'oejo-dong and the West Fleet at
Nampho . A number of training,
shipbuilding and maintenance units and a naval air wing report
directly to Naval Command Headquarters at
Pyongyang . The majority of
the navy's ships are assigned to the East Fleet. Due to the short
range of most ships, the two fleets are not known to have ever
conducted joint operations or shared vessels.
PEOPLE\'S ARMY AIR FORCE AND AIR DEFENCE FORCES
A former Indonesian
Lim-5 on display in the
United States in
North Korean markings Main article: Korean People\'s
Army Air Force
The KPAF is also responsible for North Korea's air defence forces
through the use of anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air (SAM)
missiles. While much of the equipment is outdated, the high saturation
of multilayered, overlapping, mutually supporting air defence sites
provides a formidable challenge to enemy air attacks.
PEOPLE\'S STRATEGIC ROCKET FORCES
Strategic Rocket Forces (North Korea)
The Korean People's Strategic Rocket Forces is a major division of
the KPA that controls the DPRK's nuclear and conventional strategic
missiles. It is mainly equipped with surface-to-surface missiles of
Soviet and Chinese design, as well as locally developed long-range
SPECIAL FORCES (11TH SNIPER BRIGADE)
The special forces of the Korean People's
Army are asymmetric forces
with a total troop size of 200,000. Since the
Korean War (North Korea:
Korean War of Liberation), it has continued to play a role of
concentrating infiltration of troops into the territory of the
South Korea and detonating major facilities.
WORKER-PEASANT RED GUARD MILITIA
Worker-Peasant Red Guards
The Red Guards (1997 complement 3.5 million) is the DPRK equivalent
Army Reserve (US)/Home Guard (UK)/National Guard
Army (UK). As a part of the Ministry of the People's
Armed Forces, its service flag enjoys the same status as that of the
other services. With units organized from University level down to the
village level made of part-time national servicemen and women from all
walks of life, it provides the Korean People's
Army with a
ready-available pool of trained reinforcements during both peacetime
and wartime deployments. As part of its responsibilities as a national
militia, the WPRG also reports to the Workers' Party of Korea's
Military Affairs Department (until 2010 it reported also to the Civil
Semi-submersible infiltration craft used by North Korean Special
After the Korean War,
North Korea maintained a powerful, but smaller
military force than that of South Korea. In 1967 the KPA forces of
about 345,000 were much smaller than the South Korean ground forces of
about 585,000. North Korea's relative isolation and economic plight
starting from the 1980s has now tipped the balance of military power
into the hands of the better-equipped South Korean military. In
response to this predicament,
North Korea relies on asymmetric warfare
techniques and unconventional weaponry to achieve parity against
high-tech enemy forces.
North Korea is reported to have developed a
wide range of technologies towards this end, such as stealth paint to
conceal ground targets, midget submarines and human torpedoes ,
blinding laser weapons , and probably has a chemical weapons program
and is likely to possess a stockpile of chemical weapons. The Korean
ZM-87 anti-personnel lasers, which are banned
Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons .
Since the 1980s,
North Korea has also been actively developing its
own cyber warfare capabilities. As of 2014, the secretive
Bureau 121 -
the elite North Korean cyber warfare unit - comprises approximately
1,800 highly trained hackers. In December 2014, the Bureau was accused
of hacking Sony and making threats, leading to the cancellation of The
Interview , a comedy based on the assassination of Kim Jong-un. The
Army has also made advances in electronic warfare by
GPS jammers. Current models include vehicle-mounted
jammers with a range of 50 kilometres (31 mi)-100 kilometres (62 mi).
Jammers with a range of more than 100 km are being developed, along
with electromagnetic pulse bombs . The Korean People's
Army has also
made attempts to jam South Korean military satellites. North Korea
does not have satellites capable of obtaining satellite imagery useful
for military purposes, and appears to use imagery from foreign
Despite the general fuel and ammunition shortages for training, it is
estimated that the wartime strategic reserves of food for the army are
sufficient to feed the regular troops for 500 days, while fuel and
ammunition - amounting to 1.5 million and 1.7 million tonnes
respectively - are sufficient to wage a full-scale war for 100 days.
The KPA does not operate aircraft carriers , but has other means of
power projection . Korean People's Air Force Il-76MD aircraft provide
a strategic airlift capacity of 6,000 troops, while the Navy's sea
lift capacity amounts to 15,000 troops. The Strategic Rocket Forces
operate more than 1,000 ballistic missiles according to South Korean
officials in 2010, although the
U.S. Department of Defense reported
in 2012 that
North Korea has fewer than 200 missile launchers. North
Korea acquired 12 Foxtrot class and Golf-II class missile submarines
as scrap in 1993. Some analysts suggest that these have either been
refurbished with the help of Russian experts or their launch tubes
have been reverse-engineered and externally fitted to regular
submarines or cargo ships. However GlobalSecurity reports that the
submarines were rust-eaten hulks with the launch tubes inactivated
under Russian observation before delivery, and the U.S. Department of
Defense does not list them as active.
A photograph of
Kim Jong-un receiving a briefing from his top
generals on 29 March 2013 showed a list that purported to show that
the military had a minimum of 40 submarines, 13 landing ships, 6
minesweepers, 27 support vessels and 1,852 aircraft.
The Korean People's
Army operates a very large amount of equipment,
including 4,100 tanks , 2,100 APCs , 8,500 field artillery pieces,
5,100 multiple rocket launchers , 11,000 air defense guns and some
MANPADS and anti-tank guided missiles in the Ground force;
about 500 vessels in the Navy and 730 combat aircraft in the Air
Force, of which 478 are fighters and 180 are bombers. North Korea
also has the largest special forces in the world, as well as the
largest submarine fleet. The equipment is a mixture of World War II
vintage vehicles and small arms, widely proliferated Cold War
technology, and more modern Soviet or locally produced weapons.
North Korea possesses a vast array of long range artillery in safely
reinforced concealments just north of the Korean Demilitarized Zone.
It has been stated that a preemptive strike on
Seoul using this
arsenal of artillery north of the Demilitarized Zone would mean that
"millions would die in a sea of fire." However, in a recent study done
by the Nautilus Institute, says it might not be as devastating as told
North Korea were aiming for an strategic attack on
Seoul it is
estimated that they could kill 64,000 people in the first day of a
The KPA possess a variety of Chinese and Soviet sourced equipment and
weaponry, as well as locally produced versions and improvements of the
former. Soldiers are mostly armed with indigenous Kalashnikov-type
rifles as the standard issue weapon. Front line troops are issued the
Type 88 , while the older
Type 58 assault rifle and Type 68A/B have
been shifted to rear echelon or home guard units. A rifle of unknown
nomenclature was seen during the 2017 'Day of the Sun' military
parade, appearing to consist of a grenade launcher and a standard
assault rifle, similar to the U.S
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