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The Korean People's Army Ground Force (KPAGF; Hangul조선인민군 륙군; Hanja朝鮮人民軍 陸軍; lit. Korean People's Military Land Group) is the main branch of the Korean People's Army, responsible for land-based military operations.

조선인민군 륙군
朝鮮人民軍 陸軍
Korean People's Army Ground Force
Flag of the Korean People's Army Ground Force.svg
FoundedAugust 20, 1947 (1947-08-20)
Country North Korea
Allegiance Kim Jong-un[1]
TypeArmy
Size950,000 active; 7,620,000 reserve[2]
Part ofKorean People's Army
Equipment4,300 tanks
2,500 infantry fighting vehicles
8,600 artillery pieces
5,500 multiple rocket launcher systems[3][4]
EngagementsKorean War
Commanders
Commander-in-chiefKim Jong-un
First deputy chiefRi Yong-gil
Notable
commanders
Choi Yong-kun,
Kim Chaek
Former flagFlag of the Korean People's Army Ground Force (1992-2012).svg

Contents

HistoryEdit

The Korean People's Army Ground Force was formed on August 20, 1947. It outnumbered and outgunned the South Korean army on the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950. North Korean ground forces formations which fought in the Korean War included the I Corps, the II and III Corps. The IV Corps and V Corps, VI and VII Corps were formed after the outbreak of war. Divisions included the 105th Armored Division, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 12th, 19th, and 43rd Infantry Divisions. During the Korean War, it also contained a number of independent units such as the 766th Infantry Regiment.

 
Military parade in Pyongyang in 2015

In 1960, the KPAGF may have totaled fewer than 400,000 personnel and probably did not rise much above that figure before 1972. The force then massively expanded over the next two decades. In 1992, there were 950,000 personnel.[5] Before this expansion of the North Korean ground forces, the South Korean army outnumbered the KPAGF. From the 1970s on, South Korea started exceeding North Korea in terms of economics. Thus, South Korea could modernize its forces, which in turn alerted North Korea and resulted in the expansion of the North Korean armed forces. The weaker of the two Koreas has maintained the larger armed force. The size, organization, disposition, and combat capabilities of the Ground Force give Pyongyang military, albeit technologically inferior, possible options both for limited offensive operations to assault the lower half of the peninsula or for limited defensive operations against any perceived threat from South Korea.

Scalapino and Lee's Communism in Korea: The Society gave an organisation chart in 1972 that showed the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 7th Army Groups (p.940). The 1st, 2nd (five divs), and 5th had four divisions plus a brigade or regiment; the 3rd had four divisions, and the 7th three divisions and three brigades. Scalapino and Lee drew upon the South Korean-published The North Korean Yearbook. A declassified 1971 CIA document referring to a 1970 DIA assessment[6] appear to indicate that the 1st Army Group included the 13th and 47th Infantry Divisions.

Yossef Bodansky's Crisis in Korea gives an account of the North Korean order of battle in 1984–88.[7] The 1st, 2nd (five divs, one brigade), and 5th Army Groups, each with four divisions and one independent brigade, covered the eastern, Western, and central sectors of the DMZ. The III, VI, and VII Corps were deployed around Wonsan and the coastal regions, with the IV Corps, recently converted from the 4th Army Group, around Pyongyang. All the corps had the virtually-standard four divisions and an independent brigade under command, apart from the VII Corps with three divisions and three brigades. The army groups were described as striking forces while the corps also had ground-holding responsibilities. The III, VI, and VII Corps began forming armoured and mechanised units in 1985.

Over time, this organization has adjusted to the unique circumstances of the military problem the KPA faces and to the evolution of North Korean military doctrine and thought.

In 1996, a significant portion of the staff, along with local government officials of the VI Corps was arrested and convicted of bribery and corruption.[8] The VI Corps HQ, which was in Chongjin, was in charge of military activities in the whole of North Hamgyong Province. It consisted of three infantry divisions, four rocket brigades and one artillery division. Joseph F. Bermudez reports in Shield of the Great Leader that the incident was not a coup, but it is often reported as such.[9] In any event, the corps was disbanded, and its units reallocated elsewhere, some to the IX Corps in North Hamgyong Province. The IX Corps now includes the 24th Division and the 42nd Division.

Current statusEdit

The overwhelming majority of active ground forces are deployed in three echelons — a forward operational echelon of four infantry corps; supported by a second operational echelon of two mechanized corps, the armor corps, and an artillery corps; and a strategic reserve of the two remaining mechanized corps and the other artillery corps.[10] These forces include the 806th and 815th Mechanized Corps and the 820th Armored Corps. These forces are garrisoned along major north-south lines of communication that provide rapid, easy access to avenues of approach into South Korea. The KPAGF has positioned massive numbers of artillery pieces, including some fakes,[citation needed] especially its longer-range systems, close to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas.

 
KPA soldiers at the DMZ

As of 2013, the US Department of Defense has reported the ground forces in number totals 950,000 in strength.[11]

EquipmentEdit

The Ground Forces have a mix of domestic and imported equipment in their inventory. Prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union, most of these items were Soviet made and later, from China.[12][13][14]

The annual report of North Korea's military capabilities by the U.S. Department of Defense, released in early 2014, identified the North Korean Army's strength at 950,000 personnel, 4,200 tanks, 2,200 armored vehicles, 8,600 artillery guns, and over 4,800 multiple rocket launchers.[15]

The bi-annual report of North Korea's military capabilities by the ROK's Ministry of National Defense, released in 2018, identified the North Korean Army's strength at 7,620,000 reserves troops, 4,300 tanks, 2,500 armored vehicles, 8,600 artillery guns, 5,500 multiple rocket launchers.[16]

ArmorEdit

Today's KPA arsenal includes a mix of Soviet and Chinese products and locally produced armored vehicles.

Name Type Quantity Origin Photo Notes
Tanks
T-34 Main Battle Tank 650   Soviet Union  
T-55 1,600[17]   Some 2000 T-55 and Type 59 Tanks are thought to currently be in service.
Can be equipped with spaced armor to defeat HEAT warheads.[18]
T-62 800[17]   Various variants including T-62D.[19] Capable of receiving later model Ch'onma-Ho upgrades.
T-72S Unknown   The Soviet Union reportedly sold T-72S tanks to North Korea in the early 1980s. The number sold and the number currently in service is unknown.
T-80 Unknown   Soviet Union ? Reportedly acquired from Afghanistan in early 1990's.[20]
Type 59 175[17][21]   China   Some 2,000 T-55 and Type 59 tanks are thought to currently be in service.
Ch'ŏnma-ho ~1,000[17]   North Korea   1,000 manufactured (as of the early 1990s).
Chonma 215-216 ~1,000+ in service as of 2017 Locally designed main battle tank. Korean analogue of a Soviet supplied T-72.
PT-76 Amphibious light tank 550   Soviet Union   Some PT-76 are in reserve status.
Type 63 N/A   China   [22]
PT-85 (Type-82) more than 50 tanks   North Korea Based on the VTT-323 APC chassis.
Armored Personnel Carriers & Infantry Fighting Vehicles
BMP-1 Infantry fighting vehicle 100   Soviet Union
  Ukraine
  Designated as Korshun.
BTR-50P Armored personnel carrier N/A  
BTR-60PB 1,000[17]   First ordered in 1966.
BTR-80A 35[17]   Imported from Ukraine
BTR-152 N/A  
M-2010 (Chunma-D) N/A   North Korea   A modified clone of the BTR-80.[23]
M-2010 (6 x 6 version) N/A A shortened version of the M-2010.[24]
Type 55 N/A   China  
Type 63 APC 500[17]   North Korea   Variant VTT-323 based on Chinese A531.
M1992 N/A   Locally designed APC based on the BRDM-2.[25] Armed with an AGS-17 grenade launcher and a 9K113 Konkurs ATGM.
VTT-323 (M-1973) 3,200   Based on the YW-531.
Model 2009 (Chunma-D, or Junma-Le)[26] 3,200   Based on the PT-85 light tank hull but fitted with a turret from a M-2010 personal carrier.[26]

VehiclesEdit

Name Type In Service Notes
Transportation and logistics
Mercedes G-Class Utility vehicle Seen during the funeral of Kim Jong-il[27]
UAZ-3151 Utility vehicle
Iveco 90.17 WM General-purpose truck
Ural-4320 General-purpose truck
FAW MV3 General-purpose truck
Volvo FM Tractor truck Supplemented by Sinotruk HOWO A7
MAZ-7310 Missile system carrier
WS-51200 TEL Transporter erector launcher platform 10

ArtilleryEdit

The KPA-GF artillery pool include both imports and locally produced guns.

Name Type In Service Notes
Howitzers
M-1985 152 mm gun-howitzer D-20/M1955; Type 83
M-1981 122 mm self-propelled gun Type 54 SPH
M-1978 170 mm SP gun-howitzer Largest caliber self-propelled howitzer in KPA service
180 mm gun S-23[28] 180mm howitzer Largest caliber howitzer in KPA
M-1975 130 mm self-propelled gun
M-1974 152 mm SP gun-howitzer
M-1992 122 mm self-propelled gun
M-1991 152 mm self-propelled howitzer
M-1992 120 mm self-propelled combination gun
M-2018 152mm self-propelled gun Jane's compared its ordnancee with 2S19 Msta

[measure the photo by straightedge][29][30] Range over 40 kilometers.[31]

SU-100 100 mm SP assault gun
Mortars
Mortars Various North Korea is known to have some 10,000 mortars of different types and origin in its inventory
Rocket Artillery
Type 63 107 mm multiple rocket launcher 4,000 delivered between 1964–1990
M-1985 122 mm multiple rocket launcher
M-1993 122 mm multiple rocket launcher
BM-11 122 mm multiple rocket launcher
RM-70 122 mm multiple rocket launcher [32]
BMD-20 200 mm multiple rocket launcher 200 delivered in mid-1950s[33]
BM-24 240 mm multiple rocket launcher 500 delivered in 1955
M1985/M1991 240 mm rocket launcher Estimated 200+ in service between both models[34][35] Range estimates of 30–43–60–70 km (19–27–37–43 mi)[36][37]
KN-09 300 mm guided rocket launcher 10 estimated in 2016.[38] [39][40]

Crucially, the North Korean Army has large numbers of heavy artillery in positions close to the DMZ and near Seoul, the capital of South Korea, a city having a population of approximately 25 million people, around 50% of the total population of South Korea. These artillery pieces can reach the northern parts of Seoul, and are often considered to be a more significant threat than North Korea's nuclear weapons.[41] North Korea's threat of a 'sea of fire' upon Seoul is usually taken to refer to the use of this artillery.[42]

Studies have differed over the number of casualties these artillery can inflict; one 2011 study suggests that the North Korean artillery, firing so as to cause maximum civilian casualties instead of for military effect, could inflict "only" about 3,000 – 30,000 casualties in the first day of a conflict, after which the population would evacuate or find shelter and the North Korean artillery pieces were themselves substantially destroyed.[43]

WeaponsEdit

Anti-tank weaponsEdit

Name
Man-portable anti-tank
RPG-2
RPG-7 (local production with tandem warhead)
Type 69 RPG (Chinese rocket-propelled grenade)
RPO-A (assumed to be locally produced)
ATGMs
AT-1 Snapper (retired)
AT-2 Swatter (in reserve)
AT-3 Sagger (local production as Bulsae-1)
AT-4 Spigot (local production as Bulsae-2)
AT-5 Spandrel (assumed to be locally produced and used on Type 85 Susang)
AT-7 Metis
AT-9 Spiral-2 [44]
AT-14 Spriggan (local production as Bulsae-3)[45]
Recoilless rifles
B-10 recoilless rifle
B-11 recoilless rifle
SPG-9 (local production)
Self-propelled ATGMs
Type 85 Susang
M-2018 ATGM[46]
Towed anti-tank cannon
152mm extended D-20 derivative[47]

Anti-aircraft weaponsEdit

Name
MANPADS[48]
SA-7 MANPADS (locally produced)
SA-14 MANPADS (locally produced)
SA-16 MANPADS (locally produced)
SA-18 MANPADS (locally produced)
FIM-92A (locally produced)
HN-5A (locally produced)
Anti-aircraft artillery
ZPU-4 (locally produced)
ZU-23-2
M1939
SPAAG
ZSU-57-2
ZSU-23-4
M1984 14.5mm (locally produced)
M1985 57 mm (locally produced)
M1992 30 mm (locally produced)
M1992 37 mm (locally produced)

Small armsEdit

In South Korea, many of North Korean small arms are showcased in many war museums, such as War Memorial of Korea, tourist sites of North Korean infiltration tunnels, or for the purpose of inspiring patriotism to citizens. The Korean Defense Intelligence Command (KDIC) displays North Korean equipment (most of them used by Special Forces) on an exhibition van in various military-related events place such as military units or public establishments.[49]

Name Country of origin Notes
Semi-automatic pistols
Type 64   Belgium /   North Korea Unlicensed copy of FN Browning M1900
Type 66   Soviet Union /   North Korea Indigenous copy of Makarov pistol
Type 68   Soviet Union /   North Korea Indigenous copy of TT-30 pistol.
Type 70   North Korea Self-designed and produced; Modeled after the FN M1900; chambered in .32 ACP[50]
BaekDuSan   Czechoslovakia /   North Korea Issued to high-ranking officers, pilots, and special force members. In recent years the pistol is becoming the standard issued sidearm for most officers.
Norinco NZ-75   China /   North Korea
FN Baby Browning   Belgium Issued to spies
CZ 82   Czech Republic Issued to senior officers
Inglis Hi-Power   Canada Issued to spies and special force members
Sub-machine guns
PPS-43   Soviet Union /   China Both Soviet PPS submachine guns and Chinese Type 54s
M3   United States M3 was captured and used during the Korean War. Still used Limited supply used for Spies.
M56   Yugoslavia
Sterling submachine gun   United Kingdom Very limited use. Issued to elite special operations force units and spies for infiltration combat missions in South Korea.
PP-19 Bizon   Russia Extremely rare. Issued to elite special operations force units.
vz.61   Czechoslovakia Used by special force units, and spies.
Shotguns
KS-23   Soviet Union
Assault rifles
vz. 58   Czechoslovakia
Type 56   China Produced locally as the Type 58
Type 63   China
Norinco CQ   China   North Korea Limited use, issued to special force members
M16A1   United States Limited use, unlicensed locally made copies, issued to special force members. Seen in use by North Korean Commandos in the Gangneung incident in 1996.[51][52]
K2   South Korea Limited use, unlicensed locally made copies, issued to special force members at least since 1990s.[53]
Type 58   North Korea Standard issue of KPA reserve forces
Type 68   Soviet Union /   North Korea Standard issue among North Korean infantry and being slowly supplanted by the Type 88 or 98
Type 88   North Korea Slowly supplanting the Type 68 as the future standard issue rifle of the KPA. Type 88-1 uses a side folding stock. Type 88-2 uses an overfolding stock and is modified and has a shorter AK-74U style muzzle brake and barrel. It is designed to use a new NK-designed helical magazine that can hold between 100-150 5.45 x 39 mm cartridges.[54][better source needed]
QTS-11   North Korea OICW-Type, assault rifle chambered to fire the 5.45 mm round, as well as (23-30 mm?) airburst shells from its bullpup bolt-action over-barrel launcher with magazine containing 3 to 5 rounds[55]
Sniper rifles
Dragunov SVD   Soviet Union
PSL   Romania
Chogyok-Pochong   Yugoslavia /   North Korea
Light machine guns
Type 64   Soviet Union
Type 82 GPMG   Soviet Union
RPD   North Korea
Type 73   North Korea Indigenous design based on the Vz. 52 machine gun and the Kalashnikov PK machine gun design
Nikonov machine gun   Soviet Union
RP-46   Soviet Union
Gun-2?   North Korea Indigenous gatling-type, chambered to fire 7.62x54mmR
Heavy machine guns
DShKM   Soviet Union /   North Korea Standard issue
KPV   Soviet Union /   North Korea
Indigenous 14.5x114mm gatling gun   North Korea
Grenade launchers
GP-25   Soviet Union   North Korea
AGS-17   Soviet Union   North Korea [56]
AGS-30   Russia   North Korea Seen on Chonma-Ho 216 model 2017[57]
Non-lethal
ZM-87   China Reported to have been used to illuminate two US Army Apache helicopters in 2003.[58]

Reserve small armsEdit

(Mostly used by Worker-Peasant Red Guards).

  • TT pistol – Soviet-made Tokarev batches, replaced by the locally-made Type 68 pistol.
  • Type 54 pistol Chinese-made Tokarev batches, replaced by the locally-made Type 68 pistol.
  • PPSh-41 – Under the designation Type 49.[59]
  • Type 100 – Japanese sub-machine gun, captured during World War II and used in the Korean War.
  • Mosin–Nagant – Now used for ceremonial purposes only.
  • M1903 Springfield - U.S. bolt action rifle captured during the Korean War. Used by Worker-Peasant Red Guard units. Sometimes used with a suppressor attached.
  • Murata Rifle – Captured from the Japanese in 1905. Still used today by Worker-Peasant Red Guard units.
  • Nambu Pistol – Captured from the Japanese during the Jeungmi Righteous War in 1907. Now in use with Worker-Peasant Red Guard officers.
  • PPD-40
  • SVT-40
  • SG-43 Goryunov
  • DP
  • Type 63 Rifle – Locally produced variant of the Soviet SKS carbine. Now used by ceremonial and reserve forces of the KPA.
  • Shin guntō – Japanese sword, captured during World War II and used in the Korean War.
  • Luger P08 – Unlicensed copy given to officers.

Ranks and uniformsEdit

RanksEdit

Korean People's Army Ground Forces has six categories of ranks; marshals (-Su), general officers (-Jang), senior officers (-Jwa, "Commanders"), junior officers (-Wī, "Leaders"), Non-commissioned Officers (-Sa), and Soldiers (-Pyŏngsa, "Soldier" and -Chŏnsa, "Warrior).

EnlistedEdit

Equivalent
NATO code
OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
  North Korea
(Edit)
                No equivalent
T'ŭkmu-sangsa
특무상사
Sangsa
상사
Chungsa
중사
Hasa
하사
Sanggŭp-pyŏngsa
상급병사
Chungŭp-pyŏngsa
중급병사
Hagŭp-pyŏngsa
하급병사
Chŏnsa
전사
Sergeant major Master sergeant Sergeant first class Staff sergeant Sergeant Corporal Lance corporal Private

OfficersEdit

Equivalent
NATO code
OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) and student officer
  North Korea
(Edit)
                            Unknown
Marshal of the KPA
(인민군원수)
Vice marshal
(차수)
Army general
(대장)
Colonel general
(상장)
Lieutenant general
(중장)
Major general
(소장)
Senior Colonel
(대좌)
Colonel
(상좌)
Lieutenant colonel
(중좌)
Major
(소좌)
Captain
(대위)
Senior lieutenant
(상위)
Lieutenant
(중위)
Junior lieutenant
(소위)

MarshalsEdit

Supreme commanders Marshals
       
Ranks in Korean Tae wonsu
대원수
Konghwaguk Wonsu
공화국원수
Wonsu
원수
Ch'asu
차수
Ranks Generalissimo Marshal of the DPRK Marshal of the KPA Vice marshal

UniformEdit

KPA officers and soldiers are most often seen wearing a mix of olive green or tan uniforms. The basic dress uniform consists of a tunic and pants (white tunics for general officers in special occasions); female soldiers wear knee length skirts but can sometimes wear pants.

Caps or peaked caps, especially for officers (and sometimes berets for women) are worn in spring and summer months and a Russian style fur hat (the Ushanka hats) in winter. A variant of the Disruptive Pattern Material, the Disruptive Pattern Combat Uniform (green), the ERDL pattern, the M81 Woodland and the Tigerstripe is also being worn by a few and rare images of North Korean army officers and service personnel. In Non-Dress uniforms, a steel helmet (Soviet SSh-68 combat helmet) seems to be the most common headgear, and is sometimes worn with a camouflage covering.

Standard military boots are worn for combat, women wear low heel shoes or heel boots for formal parades.

Camouflage uniforms are slowly becoming more common in the KPA. During the April 15, 2012 parade, Kevlar helmets were displayed in certain KPA units and similar helmets are currently used by KPA special operations forces.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit