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Korean People's Army - Training

Most of the DPRK's military equipment is technologically inferior to ROK equipment. The state of readiness and training for the force has decline due to the age of equipment and lack of repair parts. Therefore, the ability of the DPRK to threaten the South with conventional forces continued to decline in recent decades.

The DPRK plans to operate in a chemically contaminated environment. Chemical defense units are organic to combat units down to regiment level. These chemical defense units have both detection and decontamination systems. Their missions include reconnaissance and the training of personnel in the use of protective equipment. Chemical training and exercises for both military and civilian personnel have increased consistently over the years.

The DPRK enforces a mandatory conscription law for citizens age 17 and over. Minimum service periods are as follows: 5 to 8 years (army), 3 to 4 years (air force), and 5 to 10 years (navy). Those not able to serve actively for that period of time are enlisted Red Guard militia, a large paramilitary force. The Worker-Peasant Red Guard militia is the largest civilian defense force in the DPRK. Those under conscription age are assigned to the Red Youth Guards for training.

Before the winter 2000 training, some had suggested that North Korea's economic crisis had caused North Korean training to decline considerably. Such a decline, in combination with maintenance and support difficulties, would have minimized the conventional threat posed by North Korean forces. For larger units, most North Korean training is traditionally done during the winter training cycle, but little training went on in the winter of 1999. The winter of 1998 was a more robust training period (though less than historical patterns in some ways).

The North Korean performance in the winter 2000 training was relatively impressive, suggesting that previous judgments have been premature. Immediately following the June 2000 summit, the North Korean People's Army training cycle in the summer of 2000 was the most extensive ever recorded. It was preceded by the most ambitious winter training cycle for the past ten years. Training levels since 2000 have been record-breaking, with the focus on improving the readiness of major offensive forces.

But by in 2012, because of a lack of food, only 25 percent of the reserve forces were made to participate in a light infantry companys field training, but even with that limited number, on the third day many left the training due to the food shortage. In addition, commanders lack the basic equipment necessary to exercise command and control over subordinate units and to communicate with each other.

Since military units do not have electrical chargers for transceivers, 85 percent of the transceivers do not work. Although 140 kilometers of wire is needed for communications, only ten kilometers is available. If a war suddenly breaks out, it will not be possible to transmit orders. Self-procurement of materiel in short supply is required, leading to crime.

The training of SOF personnel is believed to take 12 to 24 weeks or longer, depending on the skill levels. The skill and training that SOF personnel receive, such as infiltration, mountaineering, night operations, swimming, martial arts, airborne, intelligence collection, demolition, and rigorous physical fitness, are typical of elite units throughout the world. Discipline is strong and harsh, with an emphasis placed on intensive physical training and political indoctrination. When training is completed, the trainee is awarded a senior NCO or junior officer rank and assigned to an operational unit for the remainder of his career.

Officer Education and Training

The commissioned officers' military education and training system in North Korea is elaborate and includes numerous schools, academies, colleges, and universities. Among these institutions are officer- candidate schools for each armed service; basic and advanced branch schools for armor, artillery, aviation, rear services, and other branches; mid-career staff colleges; senior war colleges; and specialty schools, such as medical and veterinary service schools. The majority of officer candidates are selected from noncommissioned officers (NCOs) who display exemplary military qualities and political reliability. Once selected, candidates receive initial branch training and commissioning from service academies and schools. Ground force officer candidates train at branch-specific schools, such as the Combined Artillery Officer School, Armor Officer School, and Kang Kon General Military Academy (which was established in July 1946 as the Central Security Cadre School, renamed in December 1948 as the First Officer Candidate School, and acquired its current name in October 1950). Air force officer candidates train at either the Kim Ch'aek Air Force Academy or the Kyongsong Flight Officer School; navy officer candidates train at the Kim Ch'ong-suk Naval Academy.

Mid-career command and staff training is offered at all the service academies, various branch schools, and the Kim II Sung Military University. Courses taught at the service academies last six to 12 months, whereas courses that are taught at branch schools tend to be limited to six months. Two schools are of particular importance: Kim II Sung Military University and Man'gyongdae Revolutionary Institute. Kim II Sung Military University is the most prestigious military school and offers advanced training to officers of all services. Various degree programs are offered: company and junior field-grade officers can attend a three- to four-year program; senior field-grade and political officers are eligible to attend a one-year program. Founded in October 1948, Man'gyongdae Revolutionary Institute is an 11 -year mili- tary boarding school for children of the party elite. Many graduates of this prestigious institution go on to serve as party members.

Generally, political officer candidates are selected according to merit, party loyalty, and political reliability among KPA General Political Bureau service members. Candidates receive two years of training at the Political Officers School before commissioning and service in the General Political Bureau or as unit-level political officers. Training focuses on politics, economics, party history, chuck 'e (see Glossary) philosophy, and party loyalty. Advanced training is offered at other institutions, such as Kumsong Political College and Kim II Sung Political University (which was established in November 1945 as the P'yongyang Institute, renamed in January 1949 as the Second Officer Candidate School, and assumed its current name in February 1972).

Political officers for field-grade positions are routinely selected by the political department at the corps level from party members in the corps headquarters. Supplemental training may include a six- month course at a political college. Candidates for positions at the division or higher level are identified by the Organization Department of the KPA General Political Bureau. They then are screened by the party committee and approved by the party Central Committee's Secretariat before appointment as head of a political department at division or higher level. Colleges and universities provide most of the training for reserve officers; information available about the training does not differenti- ate between the officer-selection process and other reserve military training. There may be two separate tracks or a selection process at the end of training.

Enlisted Conscription and Training

North Korea enforces universal conscription for males and selective conscription for females with significant pre-induction and postservice requirements. In April 1993, North Korea enacted the Tenyear Service System, which lengthened universal conscription from an eight- to a 10-year obligation. In October 1996, the Army Service Decree was amended, lengthening (by as much as three years) conscript service obligations to age 30. Initial draft registration is conducted at age 14, pre-induction physicals are administered at age 16, and graduating senior middle school students typically are drafted at age 17.

Eligibility for the draft is based on economic and political factors as well as physical condition. Some young people are able to postpone military service through temporary deferments that are offered for continuing education at high school or college. Technicians, skilled workers, members of special government organizations, and children of the politically influential often are excluded from the draft. Most service personnel are single, as marriage is prohibited in the military until age 30, even for commissioned officers. Women are conscripted selectively at a ratio of about one female to nine males and serve in all three services and branches.

The coordinating national command authorities of the Central Military Commission and National Defense Commission establish annual conscription quotas that are enforced by the provincial, municipal, and county military-mobilization departments. The county departments, in turn, levy conscription requirements on local schools for implementation, and the schools select the most qualified students. After receiving official notification, inductees are assigned to the army, air force, or navy; given a military occupational specialty, such as infantry, communications, or medical; and assigned to a duty unit.

The young men or women then go to a service- and branch-specific military training center or training company at regimental or divisional level for basic and occupational specialty training. Initial training varies by type and lasts approximately two months for ground forces and between two and three months for naval and air forces. Additional training is provided on the job at squad, platoon, and company levels. Training, conducted under constant supervision, essentially emphasizes memorization and repetition but also includes a heavy emphasis on technical skills and vocational training. Lack of a technical base is another reason for the emphasis on repetitive training drills.

Nighttime training is extensive, and physical and mental conditioning is stressed. Remedial training for initially substandard performances is not uncommon. Such training methods produce soldiers well versed in the basics even under adverse conditions. The degree to which they are prepared to respond rapidly to changing circumstances is less certain. NCO candidates are selected by merit for advanced military training at NCO schools, which are located at both the corps and the Military Training Bureau of the General Staff Department.

The quality of life of the enlisted soldier is difficult to evaluate. Conditions are harsh; rations are no more than 700 to 850 grams per day, depending on branch and service. Leave and passes are limited and strictly controlled. A two-week leave is allowed, although rarely granted, only once or twice during an entire enlistment. Passes for enlisted personnel are even more rare; neither day nor overnight passes are granted. During tours of duty, day passes are granted for public affairs duties or KWP-related activities. There is conflicting information about the frequency of corporal punishment and the harshness of military justice.

A typical daily routine can last from 5:00 AM to 10:00 PM, with at least 10 hours devoted to training and only three hours of unscheduled or rest time, excluding meals. In addition, soldiers perform many duties not related to their basic mission; for example, units are expected to grow crops and to raise livestock or fish to supplement their rations.




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Page last modified: 24-06-2021 17:59:57 ZULU