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Korean People's Army - Overview

Just after World War II and during the Soviet Union's occupation of the portion of Korea north of the 38th Parallel, the Soviet 25th Army headquarters in Pyongyang issued a statement ordering all armed resistance groups in the northern part of the peninsula to disband on Oct. 12, 1945. Two thousand Koreans with previous experience in the Soviet army were sent to various locations around the country to organize constabulary forces with permission from Soviet military headquarters, and the force was created on Oct. 21st.

The headquarters felt a need for a separate unit for security around railways, and the formation of the unit was announced on Jan. 11, 1946. That unit was activated on Aug. 15 of the same year to supervise existing security forces and creation of the national armed forces.

Military institutes such as the Pyongyang Academy (became No. 2 KPA Officers School in Jan. 1949) and the Central Constabulary Academy (became KPA Military Academy in Dec. 1948) soon followed for education of political and military officers for the new armed forces.

After military was organized and facilities to educate its new recruits were constructed, the Constabulary Discipline Corps was reorganized into the North Korean People's Army Corps Headquarters. The previously semi-official units became military regulars with distribution of Soviet uniforms, badges, and weapons that followed the inception of the headquarters.

The State Security Department, a forerunner to the Ministry of Defense, was created as part of the Interim People's Committee on Feb. 4th, 1948. The formal creation of the Korean People's Army was announced four days later on Feb. 8th, seven months before the government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was proclaimed on Sept. 09, 1948.

North Korea has organized a grand total of seven million men and women into reserve units. Reserve Military Training Unit, Worker-Peasant Militia, and the Young Red Guards make up most of the number. The units are managed by the Party Civil Defense Department in peacetime, but are placed under the Ministry of Defense in contingencies. War mobilization measures usually assign Reserve Military Training Unit to the front or regional defense in war, while the other two units are assigned to maintain security in the rear, guard duty for important facilities, etc. About 30% of all North Koreans between the ages fifteen to sixty are mobilized for reserve units:

  • The Reserve Military Training Unit consist of approximately 1.7 million persons (men 17-45 and unmarried women 17-30) who are not either in active duty or important rear area personnel. They are mobilized under supervision of provincial military units, for a total of forty days' training out of the year.
  • The Worker-Peasant Militia is a combination of older men aged 45-60, along with men ages 17-45 and unmarried women ages 17-30 who are not included in Reserve Military Training Unit. They train for a total of thirty days out of the year. Their current numbers stand at 4.1 million.
  • The Young Red Guards consist of 1.2 million male and female Higher Middle (High) School students aged 14-16. They are subject to a mandatory four-hour drill session every Saturday and a total of 160 hours of on-campus drills annually. A total of 450 hours of off-campus training is also mandatory.

Reserve Military Training Unit form the core of the reserves and are under the command of the Ministry of Defense in peace AND in wartime. Party Civil Defense Departments keep track of the Worker-Peasant Militia and the Young Red Guards in peace time, but the Ministry of Defense in contingencies.

North Korea's massive mechanized infantry and tank units, organized at corps and brigade levels and positioned in depth along the major routes of the attack line, are able to concentrate force on exploiting a breakthrough and enlarging the results of combat operations. The North Korean artillery units, protected in covered trenches and underground bases, can deliver deep fire support without exposure while their multiple rocket launchers are capable of concentrating fire support. North Korea's river-crossing engineering forces armed with more than 600 amphibious vehicles and over 2,300 S-type floating bridge sections can transport troops and equipment for speedy river-crossing operations.

The army has an extensive facility hardening program. Almost all the forward deployed artillery can be stored in wellprotected underground emplacements. The passive defenses in the forward corps include a large bunker complex to conceal and protect infantry forces, mechanized units, and war matriel stockpiles.

Force improvements include forward repositioning key offensive units, emplacing anti-tank barriers in the forward area, establishing combat positions along major routes between Pyongyang and the Demilitarized Zone, improving coastal defense forces in the forward area, constructing missile support facilities, and procuring air defense weapons. Applying lessons from US operations in Europe and Southwest Asia, the North Koreans also modified key facility defenses, dispersed forces, and improved camouflage, concealment, and deception measures.

According to remarks made by General LaPorte, commander USFK, during congressional testimony in March 2003 North Korea had for the previous 10 or 12 years adapted its military on what the military leadership perceives as the strengths of the United States military. The KPA adapted in several ways. First in terms of communications the North Korean military has developed an indigenous, frequency-hopping radio that allows soldiers to communicate in a secure mode. Fiber optics have been installed between fixed facilities. And in attempt to protect its forces from US surveillance and air capabilities, the North Koreans have built a tremendous number of underground facilities throughout North Korea to protect leadership and critical forces.

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Page last modified: 24-06-2021 17:59:56 ZULU