The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW


The Role Of The Marines At The Korean Peninsula
CSC 1984
SUBJECT AREA Strategic Issues
             Submitted to
The Marine Corps Command and Staff College
            Quantico, Virginia
In Partial Fullfillment of Requirements
       For Written Communications
         LtCol. C.  S.  CHO
         Korean Marines
         April 2.  1984
     Korea has three sides sea which are the east, the west
and the southern part. Since the end of World War II in 1945,
the Korean peninsula has been divided into the South and the
North. From that time until now, we have been faced with a
very real military threat from North Korea which still has
as her ultimate goal red unification by means of force. We
have to maintain a great number of military forces against
North Korean forces.1
     Most of the military strength is the ground forces on
both sides which are defending a 155 mile long De Militari-
zed Zone(DMZ). It is the most severe situation in the world
and is always highly tense.
     In this situation, the most effective military forces
are the marines. In modern warfare, we can take much advan-
tage or the new equipment and sophiscated weapons. This does
cause many burdens especially to the underdeveloped countries.
I establish the scope or how to employ and train the marines
1. Anthony H. Cordesman, "The Military Balance in Northeast
   Asia: The Challenge to Japan and Korea." Armed Forces
   Journal International, December, 1983, P. 35
Click here to view image
effectively, without requiring a huge amount of money or
materials, to just within a present combat capability and
     The marines are also ground forces but the major diff-
erence between the army and marines is that the marines con-
duct amphibious operations. The Korean peninsula is an ideal
area for amphibious landings. The big advantages of amphibi-
ous landings are flexibility and mobility.
     The marines are a very economical force. According to
intelligence, three North Korean army divisions defend the
east coast and another three divisions defend the west coast
against only one Republic of Korea (ROK) marine division.
As a result, our marine division can effectively hold six
North Korean army divisions at the present coastal area and
can prevent reinforcements to the DMZ.
     However, our navy is not big enough to conduct an amphi-
bious assault support above one Regimental Landing Team (RLT)
size. The U.S navy is an oceanic navy which crosses the paci-
fic or atlantic ocean, but the ROK navy is a coastal navy.
Our main threat is North Korea and that the sea battle areas
are within 900 miles of sea line. Also we have the advantage
or mutual support from the east sea and the west sea through
the south sea, whreas the North Korean navy is separated
from the east and west seas. Korea is a small country and
does not have a bigger naval fighting ship than the Destroyer
(DD) class. We need more small fast crafts which are more
efficient for the Korean sea.
     During a see-saw game between the Southern and North-
ern ground forces in the vicinity of the DMZ during war
time, our marines can attack the North Korean flank in the
east or west or both sides by an amphibious assault. They
can cut the line of communications and prevent reinrorce-
ments from the rear to the front. A typical example is "The
Inchon Landing" in 1950.  Conducted by U.S and ROK marines
during the Korean war. Consequently, this started an epoch
for this type of defense against attacks.
     When we conduct an amphibious landing, the essential
factor is achieving air and sea superiority. Today in the
present situation, it is difficult to achieve air and sea
superiority against North Korea. (See Table 1)
Click here to view image
We need more time and money. For this reason we have to
think about amphibious raids by small fast craft or fast
patrol craft. 3
     Amphibious raids do not require air or sea superio-
rity. And the best transportation for amphibious raids
is the submarine. However, at the present, we do not have
submarines and the west sea does not have a sufficient
water depth for maneuvering submarines. However, we want
to have submarines and we will have them within the next
ten years. During the last ten years, the ROK navy has
built small,fast and more fire powered craft fitted for
the Korean sea conditions. Small fast attack craft or sm-
all coastal patrol craft and Inflatable Boat Small (IBS)4
are effective means ot conducting amphibious raids.
     The purposes of the amphibious raids are as follows5
2. Anthony H. Cordesman, "The Military Balance In Northeast
   Asia: The Challenge to Japan and Korea." Armed Forces
   Journal International, December, 1983, P.35-36
3. John Moore, "JANE'S Fighting Ships,1982-83"(London,
   Jane's Publishing Company Limited), P.287
   Small Fast Attack Craft: Displacement 250 tons, Max. Sp.
       4O Knots, Built by Korea Tacoma.
   Small Coastal Patrol Craft: Displacement 80 Tons.
       Max. Speed 42 Knots, Built by Korea Shipbuilding Corp.
4. Korea Marines, Amphibious Raids  IP 1-81(1981),P.26
inflicting loss of damage, securing information, creating
a diversion, capturing of evacuating personnel and / or
material. Thus, the unique situation in Korea is that we
can employ strategical effects such as:
       - We can deny the concentration of enemy combat po-
wer and reduce the flexibility of the general purpose re-
serve forces of amphibious raids which are to the rear areas.
       - We support friendly forces operations to destroy
major harbor facilities or military bases which are located
near the coast line.
       - We can neutralize enemy command and control systems
and combat logistical facilities to destroy main lines of
communications, administration posts and power plants.
       - We can enhance psychological warfare to attack po-
pulated areas.
       - We can collect strategical intelligence for captu-
ring enemy key personnel or strategic materials.
     Also we can achieve tactical effects in these ways:
       - We can attack the enemy flank to force dispersion
which are located in the frontal area to limit employment
of reserves.
       - We can destruct fortified points or underground
fortresses for support of an amphibious assault.
       - We can employing combat intelligence.
5. Doctrine for Amphibious Operations, LFM 01.
     Therefore, conducting an amphibious raid is the same
as conducting a normal amphibious operation with its five
phases - a planning phase, an embarkation phase, a rehear-
sal phase, a movement phase and an assault phase. However,
the only difference is adding the withdrawal phase at the
end. When the embarkation phase is finished, the small att-
ack crafts move to 20,000m to 30,000m in front of the land-
ing beach. As soon as they have arrived at the IBS transfer
area, which is out of enemy coastal gun's range but still
remains within enemy radar contact area, there is a trans-
fer of the IBS to the marines and a move to another direc-
tion for deception. When stopping the small attack crafts
only two or three minutes is necessary for a transfer of
the IBS.
     After the transfer, the IBS moves without a wave guide
and radio control. The result of this training is that an
IBS with an outboard motor can move to the beach until it
is 300m to 1,000m in front of the beach depending on the
sentry post or sea conditions. After that the IBS is padd-
led to shore silently. This ship to shore movement stage
is the most dangerous but most important part of the entire
amphibious raids.
     In order to conduct an amphibious raid mission, the
ROK marine division is well trained in amphibious raid tac-
tics. The marine division consists of three infantry regi-
ments and each regiment has designated one amphibious raid
battalion. The designated amphibious raid battalion has
been trained in small rubber boat handling, reconnaissance
skills, weapons with silences firing, map reading, scuba
proficiency and combat swimming. Also, they are equipped
with scuba equipment, weapon with silences, a gyro compass,
a motorized IBS, etc.
     In the present situation, our marines have developed
many amphibious raid tactics and laid special emphasis on
night operations. But we can not achieve a decisive victory
through amphibious raid operations. The amphibious raid
is used as one of the types of amphibious operations. The
principal type of amphibious operation is the amphibious
assault which begins with an ashore combat power of zero
and builds rapidly to the level of maximum power required
for the force to accomplish the mission ashore.
     Concerning this point, the ROK marines have a strong
intrest and have explained to the navy that the fundamen-
tal problem is the lack of amphibious ships. The ROK's
navy fleet has only eight Landing Ship Tanks( LST ) which
were built between the years of 1943 to 1945 and their max-
imum speed is less than twelve knots.6  Now the modern war
has changed very rapidly especially the weapon system.  Al-
most every year we can see more powerful and sophiscated
new weapon systems. Our navy has still World War II type
6. John Moore, "JANE'S Fighting Ships, 1982-83"  ( London,
   Jane"s Publishing Company Limited ), P.289.
type amphibious ships.
     Aocoring to ROK's intelligence, North Korea has very
strong coastal guns, and they have sophiscated radar along
the coastal line. They can cover the entire coastal line.
Looking at these circumstances the ROK's navy LSTs are ex-
actly " Long Slow Targets " for the  North Korean coastal
guns. Consequently our own amphibious operations are very
difficult to achieve because our navy retains these types
of amphibious ships.  We can find many problems easily.
     First, we can not conduct amphibious assaults  above
one  RLT size, and we can not achieve mass attacks because
it is difficult to transport fire power means - artillery,
tank -  and heavy equipments. ( See table. 2 )
   Amphibious Operation Capability for ROK navy / marines
Click here to view image
     Second, let us assume it is war time.  Probably the
U . S Marine Corps in Okinawa would participate in a Korean
war to help  South Korea.  Theretore, there would be a
ROK / US marine combined amphibious operation.  The ROK
amphibious task force cannot combined their operations with
the U . S amphibious task force because of their low speed.
U . S amphibious ships maneuver at 20 knots but the ROK
amphibious ships only at 12 knots.  The ROK ships cannot
make maneuvering formations.
     Third, as already stated previously, we have only one
RLT size amphibious capability.  We can make a massive po-
wer project from sea to land by amphibious operation.  We
need more modern amphibious ships.  A good example is to
compare the ROK's marines with the Taiwanese marines. (See
Table 3)
Click here to view image
     Taiwan and Korea have almost the same number of marines
but the Taiwanese navy has two LSDs and twenty six LSTs for
amphibious operations.  Now,  Korea has good shipbuilding
technology and amphibious ships are not expensive compared
to other combat ships.  Our marines have to continuously per-
7. John Moore, "JANE'S Fighting Ships, 1982-83"  ( London,
   Jane's Publishing Company Limited ), P.284, P.424.
suade the high ranking goverment officials and the mini-
ster of national defense (MND).8  They need to realize
the important role of the marines and the necessity of
amphibious ships which are just as necessary as destroy-
ers (DD) which have a higher priority for increased sea   
     Another problem is the scheme of employing marines.
We will look at higher headquarter's operation plans for
the defense of the  Korean peninsula when North Korea
attacks.9 At  DEFCON - 2 (Defense Condition)10 the marine
division will move to the assembly area at the front area,
and the ground reserve role will be under the control of
the ground component command.  At  DEFCON - 2, we will move
all divisions to the assembly area via air, railroad and
ground transportation.  During this first stage of war time,
we have to assure our ground component command reserve mis-
sion is the same as the army division.  I have already men-
tioned previously that the marine's main role is to conduct
the amphibious operation.  When we take this opportunity to
make an amphibious operation while our marine division have
the ground component reserves, we release the ground compo-
8. Same organization of Department of Defense in U.S
9. Combined Forces Command Operation Plan - 5027.
10. The second highest indication of war situation.
nent reserves mission or give up conducting the amphibious
operation.  Consequently both cases are not a good course
of action.
     When we come back to our marine's home base which is
on the front, it will really be hard to get transportation 
because all the service branches need transportation. But
perhaps many transportation assests or road systems may be
destroyed by the enemy attack.  Also during certain periods
of time of the ground component reserve mission, we  lost
personnel and equipment.  Our marine division's combat cap-
ability is reduced and we can not have sufficient time for
preparing an amphibious operation.  So we need to change
the Combined Forces Command Operation Plan.  The marine
division is to prepare and conduct the amphibious operation.
     We stand face to face with North Korea.  We have to
defend our nation against communist North Korea which is
the most aggressive country in the world.  To achieve this
supreme mission, the army, navy or air force cannot take
charge of conducting war for this is an impossible and also
dangerous idea.  We must coordinate with each other, and
we need mutual support.
     The Korean peninsula is an ideal area for amphibious
operations, and the role of the marines is more important
than the role of other services.  In order to effectively
conduct amphibious operations, we need more modern amphi-
bious ships to increase lifting capability.  We need to
establish a long range program to build new amphibious
ships and make  new equipment.
     Also, we have to retain continuous intrest concerning
amphibious raids by small fast crafts.  We have to study
and develop continually new doctrines, tactics, equipment
and effective individual training.
     Lastly, we must examine the Combined Forces Command
Operation Plan which employs the marine division to move
to the front area at DEFCON - 2 and the ground component
command reserve role.  The marine division has a unique
mission and organization.  His released from the ground
component command and just committed to training and pre-
paring for an amphibious operation.  The marine's special-
ty is the amphibious operation.
1. Cordesman H, Anthony,  "The Military Balance in
   Northeast Asia: The Challenge to Japan and Korea."
   Armed Forces Journal International, December, 1983.
2. Moore John, "Strength of the Fleet."  JANE'S FIGHT-
   ING SHIPS 1982 - 83",
3. Korea Marines. Amphibious Raids,  IP 1 - 81. Seoul,
4. U.S Marine Corps. Doctrine for Amphibious Operations,
  LFM 01.  1971.

Join the mailing list

One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias