This article is a follow up to my article about the sinking of the South Korean Navy Corvette Cheonan and the subsequent developments on the peninsula. With North Korea continually raising the rhetoric following its sinking of the Cheonan on March 26th it is important that people in the United States know what this tiny, poor, aggressive, paranoid and mysterious, yet militarily savvy nation has in its arsenal and what its goals in a renewal of hostilities against the South and US Forces in Korea might look like. I will publish articles on basic North Korean plans and war aims, Special Weapons, and ROK/US Forces and plans in the next few days. All are from unclassified sources. Since this was originally posted the situation has continued to deteriorate and I have published an article entitled The South Korean Order of Battle
The according to the Library of Congress and unclassified Central Intelligence Agency estimates the make-up of the military forces of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is listed below:
Total Population: 23,479,088 
Population Available: 12,414,017 
Fit for Military Service: 10,280,687 
Reaching Military Age Annually: 392,016 
Active Military Personnel: 1,170,000 
Active Military Reserve: 4,700,000 
Active Paramilitary Units: 189,000 
Total Land-Based Weapons: 16,400
Tanks: 3,500 
Armored Personnel Carriers: 2,500 
Towed Artillery: 3,500 
Self-Propelled Guns: 4,400 
Multiple Rocket Launch Systems: 2,500 
Mortars: 7,500 
Anti-Aircraft Weapons: 11,000 
Total Navy Ships: 708
Merchant Marine Strength: 167 
Major Ports and Harbors: 12
Aircraft Carriers: 0 
Destroyers: 0 
Submarines: 97 
Frigates: 3 
Patrol & Coastal Craft: 492 
Mine Warfare Craft: 23 
Amphibious Craft: 140 
Total Aircraft: 1,778 
Helicopters: 612 
Serviceable Airports: 77 
Defense Budget: $5,500,000,000 
Purchasing Power: $40,000,000,000 
Oil Production: 141 bbl/day 
Oil Consumption: 10,520 bbl/day 
Labor Force: 20,000,000 
Roadways: 25,554 km
Railways: 5,235 km
Waterways: 2,250 km
Coastline: 2,495 km
Square Land Area: 120,540 km
The Same sources provide this data for South Korea
Total Population: 48,379,392 
Population Available: 26,721,668 
Fit for Military Service: 21,966,367 
Reaching Military Age Annually: 696,516 
Active Military Personnel: 687,000 
Active Military Reserve: 4,500,000 
Active Paramilitary Units: 22,000 
Total Land-Based Weapons: 8,325
Tanks: 1,060 
Armored Personnel Carriers: 2,480 
Towed Artillery: 4,000 
Self-Propelled Guns: 500 
Multiple Rocket Launch Systems: 185 
Mortars: 6,000 
Anti-Tank Guided Weapons: 58 
Anti-Aircraft Weapons: 1,692 
Total Navy Ships: 85
Merchant Marine Strength: 812 
Major Ports and Harbors: 4
Aircraft Carriers: 0 
Destroyers: 6 
Submarines: 20 
Frigates: 9 
Patrol & Coastal Craft: 75 
Mine Warfare Craft: 15 
Amphibious Craft: 28 
Total Aircraft: 538 
Helicopters: 502 
Serviceable Airports: 150 
Defense Budget: $25,500,000,000 
Foreign Exch. & Gold: $262,200,000,000 
Purchasing Power: $1,206,000,000,000 
Oil Production: 17,050 bbl/day 
Oil Consumption: 2,130,000 bbl/day 
Proven Oil Reserves: 0 bbl 
Labor Force: 24,220,000 
Roadways: 102,062 km
Railways: 3,472 km
Waterways: 1,608 km
Coastline: 2,413 km
Square Land Area: 98,480 km
According to the National Intelligence Service (NIS) of the Republic of Korea (ROK) the balance of forces between the South and the North is listed below.
North Korea possesses a total of 996,000 ground forces in twenty corps units (12 infantry, 4 mechanized, 2 artillery) plus a light Special Forces command, which oversees special warfare units.
Its heavy equipment consists of 3800 tanks (T-55, T-62, T-72, light tanks), 2270 armored personnel carriers, and 11200 pieces of field artillery, with a major percentage self-propelled for purposes of speedy artillery support. The units are geared for mechanized warfare reminiscent of the Nazi blitzkrieg.
Last but not least, 100,000 Special Forces troopers stand ready to engage in sabotage behind the lines, sowing confusion and turning the whole ROK into a battlefield.
The DPRK Navy is divided into East Sea (10 squadrons) and West Sea fleets (6 squadrons) with a total manpower of 48,000.
North Korea’s fleet consist of approximately 430 combat vessels (Patrol craft, guided missile boats, torpedo boats, fire support craft), 40 submarines (15 midgets), and 340 support craft (landing craft, hovercraft). Like the ground forces 60% of the vessels are stationed near the demarcation line.
North Korea has constructed and is operating up to 130 hovercraft, each one capable of transporting a special forces platoon and operating freely in difficult terrain such as tidal flats, and able to be used for multiple landings by special forces troops at the onset of the war.
The air force has a total of six divisions (103,000); 3 for combat (fighter/bomber regiments), 2 for transport and helicopter, and one devoted exclusively for training.
Most of the 1670 aircraft are obsolete, with only sixty modern aircraft (MiG-23, 29). The mainstays consist of 470 old Soviet aircraft (MiG-19, MiG-21, IL-28, SU-7, SU-25) and 320 of ancient type (MiG-15, MiG-17). But it does possess a whopping 820 support aircraft and helicopters.
The aircraft that causes the most concern is the 300 AN-2, flying at 100 mph at low altitudes, that makes detection by radar very difficult, and its transport of Special Forces troopers deep behind the lines is a very definite threat.
The NIS provides the following comparison between the forces of the two Koreas.
ROK (South Korea) DPRK (North Korea)
North Korea’s regular army consists of 4 corps in the front area, 8 corps in the rear area, one tank corps, 5 armored corps, 2 artillery corps, and 1 corps for the defense of Pyongyang, a total of over 80 divisions and Brigades. Almost all of these forces are based near the DMZ and require little time to be ready for an offensive. In fact because the North Koreans maintains these forces on a continuous state of alert there will likely be little appreciable warning before a commencement of hostilities.
North Korea has approximately 120,000 troops assigned its Special Forces, the largest Special Forces organization in the world. The Special Forces of the DPRK are grouped into 25 brigades of various types to include light infantry, attack, airborne, and sea-born commando units. They have the support of the Navy and Air Force and use high speed hovercraft and other fast maritime craft, miniature submarines and the AN-2 “Colt” which can transport a squad of soldiers and is virtually undetectable to radar. These troops will be tasked to open a “2nd Front” by attacking US military installations in Korea, Japan, Okinawa and Guam as well as by disrupting South Korean headquarters, logistics centers, communications facilities, media outlets and government agencies in particular targeting members of the National Command Authority.
The Korean Peninsula is rugged and crisscrossed with numerous streams and rivers. The climate is difficult hot summers and very cold winters. The one time that the North has invaded the South it did so in the summer, June 25th 1950.
To be continued….