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Order of Battle - Korean People's Army

  • I Army Corps
  • II Army Corps
  • III Army Corps
  • IV Army Corps
  • V Army Corps
  • VII Army Corps
  • VIII Army Corps
  • IX Army Corps
  • X Army Corps
  • XI Army Corps
  • XII Army Corps
  • U/I Army Corps - Hamgyong-namdo
  • Kangdong Artillery Corps
  • 620 Artillery Corps

  • 108 Mechanized Corps
  • 425 Mechanized Corps
  • 806 Mechanized Corps
  • 815 Mechanized Corps

  • 820 Armor Corps

  • Pyongyang Defense Command
  • Pyongyang AAA Command
  • SSM Division [Gen Staff]

    Light Infantry Guide Bureau
    Reconnaissance Bureau
    Special Purpose Forces Command
  • North Korea continues to position forces into the area just north of the DMZ - in a position to threaten Combined Forces Command and all of Seoul with little warning. Seventy percent of their active force, including approximately 700,000 troops, over 8,000 artillery systems, and 2,000 tanks, is postured within 90 miles of the Demilitarized Zone. This percentage continues to rise despite the June 2000 summit. Most of this force in the forward area is protected in over 4,000 underground facilities, out of over 11,000 nationwide. From their current locations, these forces can attack with minimal preparations or warning. The protracted southward deployment follows a tactic of "creeping normalcy" - a significant movement over a period of many years that would attract too much international attention if accomplished over weeks or months.

    The North Korean Army (NKA) increased from an estimated 263,000 in 1953 to 350,000 in 1968. This was accompanied by a series of organizational changes so that by 1968 there were 5 army groups, 19 infantry divisions, 1 surface-to-air missile division, 3 AAA divisions, 1 tank division, and 5 infantry brigades. Additional fire support was provided by two howitzer and two heavy mortar brigades, and one rocket launcher brigade. Five tank regiments (four medium and one heavy) completed the major combat elements.

    Over 90 percent of all KPA personnel are in the ground forces, the Korean People's Army. Ground forces in 1960 may have totalled fewer than 400,000 persons and probably did not rise much above that figure before 1972. The force expanded relentlessly over the next two decades; in 1992, there were approximately 1 million personnel. The size, organization, disposition, and combat capabilities of the army give P'yongyang military options both for offensive operations to reunify the peninsula and for credible defensive operations against any perceived threat from South Korea. Militaries that experience such growth also provide great upward mobility for their officers.

    The army initially was organized along Chinese and Soviet concepts. 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.

    The North Korean military rank system consists of 21 levels: Generalissimo, marshal, inferior commander-in-chief; Senior general, general, center, major general; Senior colonel, colonel, lieutenant colonel, major; Senior captain, captain, first lieutenant, second lieutenant; Spy master sergeant, master sergeant, staff sergeant, corporal; Superior private, inferior soldier.

    Each province has, independent of the collocated conventional geographic corps, a regional Military District Command dedicated to local defense, which controls predominantly reserve forces organized into divisions and brigades. The Military District Commands apparently were formed during a restructuring of the reserves during the 1980s. Their command structure is unclear, although they apparently control the local reserves, some regular forces, and coastal defense units.

    In the 1980s, the mechanized infantry and armored and artillery forces were reorganized into new mechanized armored and artillery corps to implement the change in strategic thinking. This restructuring suggests that some infantry divisions were used to form the new mechanized forces and then reformed, and that a similar pattern apparently was used to reconstruct the armored corps.

    Until 1986 most sources claimed the army had two armored divisions. These divisions disappeared from the order of battle and were replaced by the armored corps and a doubling of the armored brigade count. In the mid-1980s, the heavy caliber self propelled artillery was consolidated into the first multibrigade artillery corps. At the same time, the restructured mobile exploitation forces were redeployed forward, closer to the DMZ. The forward corps areas of operation were compressed although their internal organization appeared to remain basically the same. The deployment of the newly formed mechanized, armored, and artillery corps directly behind the first echelon conventional forces provides a potent exploitation force that did not exist prior to 1980.

    As of 1992, the army was composed of sixteen corps commands, two separate special operations forces commands, and nine military district commands (or regions) under the control of the Ministry of the People's Armed Forces). Most sources agreed that North Korea's ground forces consisted of approximately 145 divisions and brigades, of which approximately 120 are active. There is less agreement, however, on the breakdown of the forces.

    In 1992 North Korea was divided among the conventional geographic corps. The army's armored and mechanized corps, composed of independent combined arms brigades tailored to the restrictive terrain of the peninsula, are positioned along the avenues of approach as exploitation and counterattack forces.

    As of 1996 major combat units consisted of 153 divisions and brigades, including 60 infantry divisions/brigades, 25 mechanized infantry brigades, 13 tank brigades, 25 Special Operation Force (SOF) brigades and 30 artillery brigades. North Korea deployed ten corps including sixty divisions and brigades in the forward area south of the Pyongyang-Wonsan line.

    As of 1996 the North Korean ground forces were composed of twenty corps commands including four mechanized and two artillery corps as well as a Tank Instruction Guidance Bureau and an Artillery Command, and one Light Infantry Instruction Guidance Bureau which controls special operations forces. On the eastern front is deployed I Corps, V Corps on the central eastern front, II Corps on the central-western front, and IV Corps on the western front. In the central and Pyongyang areas III, VII and IX Corps, and the Pyongyang Defense Command are deployed. The VI, VIII, X and XI Corps are in the rear.

    The VIII Army Corps is in charge of protecting major military facilities in the central area, including a missile base located in the vicinity of P'yongyang. The North Korean Army established the VIII Army Corps, with the corps headquarters in Yomju County, North P'yongan Province, and assigned the corps to protect major military facilities in the central area of North Korea. NDC Chairman Kim Chong-il gave on-the-spot guidance to the VIII Army Corps, which is also called the Large Combined Unit No. 593, on 2 November 1998. North Korea has disbanded the VIII Special Army Corps, which intensively trained agents for infiltration into the South and newly established the Light Infantry-Men Guidance Department of the early 1980s.

    Ground Forces Order of Battle

    {NOTE: Changes between 1992 and 1999 reflect both actual changes in the composition of KPA forces, as well as improved intelligence estimates of these forces.

    Strength +1,100,000 996,000
    Corps 20
    Conventional 8 12
    Mechanized 4 4
    Armor 1 ? 2
    Artillery 2 2
    Geographic 1
    Military district commands 9
    Divisions / Brigades 153
    Infantry divisions 26-30 60
    Reserve and pacification divisions 22-26
    Infantry brigades 3-6
    Reserve and pacification brigades 18+
    Mechanized and mobile brigades 23-30 25
    Armor brigades 14-15 13
    Artillery brigades 20-30 30
    Special operations forces brigades 22 25
    Special operations forces battalions 7

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