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I Army Corps

I Army Corps is a First Echelon unit of the Korean People's Army that is deployed along the DMZ where it can conduct offensive across the DMZ or provide defense in the event of an invasion. As the unit is a forward corps it is organized accordingly with four infantry divisions, and a light infantry brigade, an armor brigade, two artillery brigades, an anti-aircraft regiment, two mortar regiments, and a river-crossing regiment.

On June 10, 1950, P'yongyang established I Corps under the command of Lt. General Kim Ung. During the Korean War the unit was comprised of the 8th Infantry Division, the 17th Mechanized Division, the 23rd Infantry Division, and the 47th Infantry Division. KIMH also indicates that I Corps also had the 3rd and 4th Divisions assigned to it at the beginning of the war. The NKPA plan for the invasion of South Korea called for I Corps to direct the 3rd and 4th Divisions to advance along the Ch'orwon-P'och'on-Uijungbu axis supported by the 105th Armored Brigade. The 1st and 6th Division (an element of) were to move along the Kumch'on-Kaesong-Munsan and Kuhwari-Korangp'o-Munsan axis. Another element of the 6th Division, of roughly battalion strength attacked the Ongjin and Kimp'o peninsulas.

During the initial attack on the ROK, the Corps advanced down the Uijongbu-Seoul Suwon-Taejon axis under command of Lieutenant General KIM Ung, with the assigned responsibility for the western sector of operations. By the end of July 1950 the Corps had closed into the western sector of the Pusan Perimeter. In the most optimistic order of the Korean War, the capture by I Corps of Taegu and Pusan by 6 August 1950 was ordered in Operation Order No. 121, dated 3 August 1950.

During the fighting along the Naktong River, its divisions, the 2d, 4th, 6th, 9th, 10th and 105th, suffered very heavy casualties while attempting to break through the UN perimeter. The last attempt to smash the UN line was made by the Corps on 31 August 1950. As a result of the UNO counteroffensive launched on 16 September 1950, the Corps ordered a general withdrawal on 25 September 1950. Adding to the confusion during the period was the fact that the Corps Commander, Lieutenant General KIM Ung, had been reassigned and replaced by Lieutenant General LEE Kwon Mu, formerly commander of the 4th Division, on 8 September. However, the staff and new commander managed to escape to North Korea.

There followed a reorganization period during which time the Corps was composed of the 17th and 46th Divisions and the 105th Tank Division. The Corps was located immediately north of Sukchon at the time of the UN airborne operation in that area in late October 1950. After participating in the First Campaign, 25 October - 25 December 1950, during which it attacked toward Anju on the west flank of the 39th Chinese Communist Army, the Corps withdrew to Chosan (YF 3020). Here it was reorganized with the 8th, l?th and 47th Divisions under its control. These units were trained and replacements integrated before the Corps once again advanced southward, entering Pyongyang on 4 December 1950. By 27 December 1950 the I Corps, led by the 47th Division, was at the Imjin River near Korangpo-ri. On 4 January 1951 it entered Seoul, and subsequently set up defenses in the Suwon and Inchon area on the west flank of the 50th CCF Army.

Again in late January 1951 the Corps suffered a serious reversal, attempting to halt the UN counteroffensive launched on 25 January 1951 and as it withdrew toward Seoul in mid-February 1951 it lost almost the entire 81st Regiment, 8th Division in an attempted counterattack against UN elements near Kwangju.

Mid-March 1951 saw the Corps pushed back from Seoul across the Imjin River, At this time the 19th Division, 71 Corps, moved south of the Imjin River and was attached to cover the Corps retreat. The 19th Division took the brunt of a UN airborne attack on 23 March and was driven north of the Imjin. The Corps continued its withdrawal, moving across the Yesong River to the Baekchon-Kumchon area where it received replacements and was re-equipped for the "Fifth Campaign.

On 22 April 1951 when the "Fifth Campaign, 1st Phase" started, the 8th and 47th Divisions attacked across the Jinjin River near Munsan-ni registering some gains but suffering heavy casualties. When UN forces withdrew in the face of heavier Chinese pressure farther east, I Corps advanced to the Karhyon area where it again sustained heavy casualties. The 19th Division once again appeared under I Corps in place of the 17th Division. As soqn as the enemy drive lost its impetus, I US Corps retaliated with a short-lived offensive specifically aimed at the enemy I Corps which was forced to withdraw in some disorder across the Imjin River.

On 16 May 1951 when the "Fifth Campaign, 2d Phase" started, the I Corps advanced against UNC outposts but did not press an attack on the MLR. In late May it withdrew for the third time across the Imjin River again under pressure and with considerable personnel and materiel losses. The Corps continued its withdrawal to the west bank of the Yesong River in the general vicinity of Myorak-san (ET 5542) for a much needed rest and reorganization.

Intelligence reports dating from June and July 1951 indicated that the North Korean I Corps, which then had its headquarters at Korangp'o-ri, enjoyed the support of an artillery regiment that was probably equipped with 122mm guns. Antiaircraft protection for corps headquarters was allegedly furnished by an unknown number of 37mm antiaircraft guns and some antiaircraft machine guns assigned to a corps antiaircraft battalion. The I Corps artillery section at that time was under the command of Senior Colonel KANG-Pyong-Ch'an, and included Colonel Lee=Ch'ung-Yol the chief of staff of the artillery section, and Colonel HO-Song-Sok, the chief of the artillery tactics section.

I Corps remained out of contact until the first part of July when patrol contact was established east of the Yesong River in the general vicinity of Tosong-ni (BT 7504), On or about 18 July the 8th Division was located in this area; the 19th Division apparently remained in the general Raekchon (BT 6409) area.

During mid-August 1951 significant changes began to take place in the composition of the Corps. The 19th Division reverted to VI Corps control and was replaced by the 17th Mechanized Infantry Division, formerly the 17th Division. Fteports indicating a possible displacement of the 17th Mechanized Infantry Division were never confirmed and the division continued to be carried in the general Anek area. The 81st and 83d Regiments of the 8th Division, which displaced from Kaesong to Sinchon during August, returned to the general Kaesong area in late September 1951. Meanwhile the 47th Division remained in the general vicinity of Yonan with elements employed in a coastal defense mission while also engaged in training and combating friendly partisan activities in the area. The 23d Brigade, IV Corps, which was charged with a coastal defense mission in the Haeju-Ongjin-Changyon-Ullyul area, was placed under I Corps control.

The Corps remained in these areas until about mid-November 1951 when it was replaced in the Hwanghae Province by the 40th Chinese Communist Army and began displacing towards the Eastern Front. Reports indicated that the 8th and 47th Divisions assembled in the general Haeju area for their northeastward displacement to the Hwachon-ni area. These units arrived in the Hwachon area by the latter part of November. The 47th Division continued displacing southeast from the Hwachon-ni area and by early December 1951 had established contact in the general Yongonsu (DT 2771) area after having relieved the 19th Division, VI Corps. In late November the 8th Division, minus the 82d Regiment which remained in the Kaesong area, relieved the 18th Division, VI Corps, in the Tongchon area and assumed a coastal defense mission in the Corps rear area. The 9th Division, which had been subordinate to the VI Corps, remained in the line but was transferred to the I Corps in order to replace the 17th Mechanized Infantry Division which had not accompanied the Corps movement to the east sector. The 23d Brigade remained in place along the coastal areas of Hwanghae Province in the west sector and was subsequently assigned to the IV Corps.

By the end of 1951 the redeployment had been completed and the Corps was responsible for the area from Komisong northeast to Kbsong, thence northwestward to the vicinity of Kojo. The 47th Division and elements of the 9th Division were on the line, while the remainder of the 8th and 9th Divisions defended the coastal areas north of Kosong. During the first seven months of 1952, the dispositions of the Corps remained substantially the same. However, one change occurred in late June, when the 82d Regiment, 8th Division, displaced from the Kaesong area to the east coast in order to rejoin its parent organization.

As of July 1952 the I Corps was maintaining defensive positions on the eastern front and also the eastern coast.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 15:33:09 ZULU