DPRK - Military Personnel - Reserves

According to one of North Korea’s four military guidelines, “to arm the entire population,” the regime has mobilized around 30 percent of the population between the ages of 14 to 60 to acquire over 7.7 million reserve forces. Every member of the reserve forces is given various combat gears, including personal arms, equipment, and crew-served weapons. These forces respond to emergency calls and enter boot camps to receive 15 to 30 days of military training at least once a year.

Upon the departure of the Chinese army in 1958, North Korea organized its reserve forces and civil defense corps called the Worker-Peasant Red Guards (WPRG) in January 1959, in addition to reorganizing discharged soldiers among the WPRG members into the Reserve Military Training Unit (RMTU) in 1963. The Red Youth Guards (RYG), a military organization for senior middle school students, was created in September 1970.

As many as 7.7 million people between the ages of 14 and 60 are required to serve as reserve forces organized into four broad categories. By one estimate the DPRK military has a manpower pool of approximately 5,000,000 personnel, although the 1997 estimate for reserve troops actually assigned to a military unit was closer to 750,000 in the army and 40,000 in the navy.

North Korean Reserve Forces

Category Strength
Total 7,450,0007,700,000

Reserve Military Training Unit (RMTU)600,000 1,730,000 Subject to combat mobilization,
consists of Men between 17-50 and women between 17-30
Worker-Peasant Red Army4,140,000 5,700,000 Equivalent to the ROK’s Homeland Reserve Forces,
consists of Men between 17-60 and women between 17-30
Red Youth Guard 1,000,0001,180,000 Middle school (advanced class) military organization
(boys and girls between 14-16)
Paramilitary units 390,000400,000Guard Command, Logistics Mobilization Guidance Bureau, etc.

James M. Minnich wrote in 2001 that "approximately 30% of the entire population, are subject to mobilization. Currently, reserve troops number some 7.45 million and each reservist is subject to 30 days of annual training. The reserve forces are categorized into four groups. Approximately 1.73 million reserves form the Reserve Military Training Unit (RMTU) (men between 17 and 45, women between 17 and 30). The Worker/Peasant Red Guard, mostly men between the ages of 46 to 60, resembles a civil defense force and numbers 4.14 million personnel. The Red Youth Guard, a military organization of high-middle school students (ages 14 to 16) has a membership of approximately 1.18 million, and Paramilitary Troops number some 390,000."

Evidently there are disagreements as to the numbers of personnel in the various reserve formations.

The Reserve Military Training Unit (RMTU) is North Korea’s ready reserve and accounts for approximately 600,000-620,000 soldiers assigned to some 37 RMTU infantry divisions. The Reserve Military Training Unit members can play a key role in augmenting the combat capability to the regular armed forces during a contingency. The unit maintains a level of training that is commensurate with the regular armed forces.

Its local units are organized into either divisions or brigades depending on the size of the administrative unit or workplace. Unlike the other reserve forces, the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces controls the RMTU, from the General Staff Department through the corps headquarters to their assigned RMTU divisions. Mobilization of RMTUs is controlled by the Logistics Mobilization Bureau of the General Staff Department. The effective order of battle for reserve units is rather confused. Some sources report as many as 12 "U/I PMTU Infantry Division" formation integrated with third and fourth echelon active component Corps commands. But PMTU is a South Korean phrase for Para-Military Training Unit (PMTU), which may be taken as the equipvalent of the DPRK Reserve Military Training Unit (RMTU). So it would seem that of the totalof 37 divisions, some 25 RMTU divisions are free-standing and not assigned to specific Corps command in peacetime.

Typically, 17-year-old students who are graduating from senior middle school but not joining the active-duty forces are assigned to a local RMTU. Additionally, service members who complete their active-duty obligation are assigned to an RMTU. Accordingly, males between the ages of 17 and 45 and single females between the ages of 17 and 30 are eligible for RMTU service.

College students who join the RMTU are not allowed to graduate unless they complete their training program, and once they complete 6 months of training over summer vacation during their second and third year in college, commensurate to that of regular troops, are commissioned as second lieutenants.

The RMTU members are given 100 percent of personal arms and equipment as well as 70 to 80 percent of crewserved weapons, and are required to complete as much as 500 hours of training each year. The intensity of their training is equivalent to those taken by active-duty soldiers. As the RMTU is organized, equipped with firearms and undergo intensity of training similar to those of soldiers on active duty, they can be immediately mobilized to defend rear areas or called up as reserve forces in case war breaks out.

The RMTU divisions annually conduct 30 days of mobilization training and 10 days of self-defense training, which prepares them to round out the order of battle of their assigned corps when they serve alongside regular army divisions. Lengthy reserve service obligations mitigate reduced training opportunities while enhancing unit cohesion, producing an adequately capable force that in general is as well equipped as active-duty forces, but with earlier-model equipment.

The Worker-Peasant Red Army (WPRA) was known as the Worker-Peasant Red Guard, before being renamed as the at the Party Conference that convened on September 28, 2010. This militia, which resembles a civil-defense force, is the largest civilian defense force in the DPRK, with a strength variously estimated from approximately 3.8 million to as many as 5.7 million personnel, and is expected to play a role similar to that of the regular army.

The militia is organized on a provincial/town/village level. Command structure is brigade, battalion, company, and platoon. The militia maintains infantry small arms, mortars, and air defense artillery, although some units are unarmed. Those under conscription age are assigned to the Red Youth Guards for training.

The WPRA currently consists of those men not belonging to the RMTU who can be mobilized between ages of 17 and 60, as well as of women who are organized at each administrative unit and workplace between ages of 17 and 30. Typically, at age 46 men are transferred from their RMTU divisions to a Workers and Peasants Red Guard unit where they continue to serve until discharged at age 60, ending a lifetime of military service that began at age 14 and continued uninterrupted for 46 years.

They are supplied with all personal arms and equipment and some crew-served weapons. A total of 160 hours of training is required. The Workers and Peasants Red Army annually conducts 15 days of mobilization training and 15 days of self-defense training. This force is armed with individual (AK–47 rifles) and crew-served weapons, such as machine guns, mortars, and antiaircraft artillery pieces.

The Workers and Peasants Red Guard is controlled directly by local military affairs departments, which report to their provincial military affairs departments and on up the chain of command to the party Central Military Commission. Operationally organized at the company level by factories, farms, mines, and villages, the Workers and Peasants Red Army has as its principal mission to provide civil defense in the form of local homeland defense, air defense, and logistic support.

Along with the civil defense corps, the WPRA’s basic responsibilities include guarding the workplace and other important facilities, as well as regional and antiaircraft defense. As a secondary mission, the Workers and Peasants Red Guard could be mobilized by the party Civil Defense Department to provide troop replacements for RMTU and active-duty forces.

An editorial in Rodong Sinmun on 18 March 2013 [“Let Us Powerfully Display the Militant Might of the Revolutionary Militia Forces”] stated " Countless young people, who had been giving full play to learning and planning for a better tomorrow, are petitioning to enlist and reenlist in the Korean People’s Army [KPA], and war veterans and even young members of the children’s union are boiling the blood coursing through their hearts to stand on the front line of exterminating the enemies and asking for guns to hold in their hands.... Our militia forces, including the Worker-Peasant Red Guards, are our party’s revolutionary armed forces occupying an important place in the country’s military power and in the all-people defense system.

"Our people, including the members of the Worker-Peasant Red Guards, are currently living and working in a revolutionary and militant manner, maintaining a state of maximum agitation and a strained posture like in wartime. The land throughout the country is brimming over with the do-or-die resolve and matchless fighting spirit to risk one’s life to resolutely protect our fatherland permeated with the sacred lives of the great generalissimos and the valuable blood and sweat of the revolutionary martyrs, and our socialism, which is the nest of living for all future generations."

The Red Youth Guard, is a militia organization that generally resembles a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program. Membership in the Red Youth Guards is approximately 1,000,000. For many North Koreans, military service begins by joining during their last years of senior middle school. Membership is available to male and female students who are between 14 and 17 years of age. The Red Youth Guard, with some 940,000 members, is supervised by local military affairs departments, which report up through their respective provincial military affairs departments to the party Central Military Commission. During the school year, the Red Youth Guard receives 450 hours of classroom training and seven days each semester of unit training (substantially increased from 270 hours in the past). The training focus is on pre-induction military familiarization and includes physical training, drill and ceremony, first aid, and weapons familiarization.

Organized into companies and battalions at each school, RYG members are subject to a total of 160 hours of on-campus drills every Saturday and seven days of training during vacations, including a shooting exercise using live rounds at the RGY drill camp. As the royal guards of the regime, the RYG are mainly responsible for removing anti-revolutionary elements and playing a leading role in improving North Korea’s combat capability. In an emergency, they would perform the duties of rear guards or suicide squads to supplement those of junior army officers. They are supplied with all personal arms and equipment and some crew-served weapons.

Other para-military troops number some 400,000, and include Military Security Command, Ministry of People’s Security, and Speed Battle Youth Shock Brigades. Overall management of the national defense implies the positional advantage of having control and command over all areas of political, military, and economic capabilities.

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Page last modified: 08-09-2016 19:44:23 ZULU