Military


Special Purpose Forces Command
Light Infantry Guide Bureau
Reconnaissance Bureau

North Korean media reporting on the 15 April 2017 mentioned the name of the special operation forces for the first time. The North Korean ruling Workers' Party gazette Rodong Sinmun mentioned the name after the navy, the air force and the strategic forces at the parade. North Korea's state-run Korean Central Television said that once Supreme Commander Kim Jong-un issues an order, the new forces will charge with resolve to thrust a sword through the enemy's heart like lighting.

North Korea has two primary commands that control special operations units, the Reconnaissance Bureau and the Light Infantry Training Guidance Bureau. By the late 1970s, the term “Special Purpose Forces (SPF)" was coined to describe those KPA units that possessed ranger/commando- and special forces-type capabilities, as well as capabilities for unconventional warfare and special operations. North Korea classifies its special operations units as reconnaissance, light infantry, or sniper. North Korean SOF fall into many different categories: agent infiltration and intelligence operative, ranger/commando, reconnaissance, sniper/strategic assassination, SEAL, airborne, light infantry, and amphibious assault / naval infantry / marine. North Korean SOF are associated with conventional warfare, unrestricted warfare, unconventional warfare, guerrilla warfare, partisan warfare, asymmetric warfare, and insurgency.

The special purpose forces continued to expand, from 85,000 troops organized into 22 brigades in 1990 to approximately 100,000 troops organized into 25 brigades in 1996. The Special Purpose Forces Command is reported by one account to be organized into eight sniper brigades, with two amphibious brigades and two airborne brigades; and by another account to consist of 12 light infantry brigades, with three airborne brigades, 17 reconnaissance battalions, one airborne battalion, and eight Bureau of Reconnaissance SOF battalions.

The organizations controlling SOF units are the Reconnaissance Bureau and the Light Infantry Training and Guidance Bureau (formerly the VIII Special Purpose Corps). The Light Infantry Instruction Guidance Bureau controls special operations forces. In 1982-83, North Korea implemented a series of organizational changes which reorganized the intelligence and internal security services, and the capabilities of the Reconnaissance Bureau and VIII Special Corps were developed and implemented. At that time, the Strategic Forces Command (SFC), which was said to report to the KWP Military Committee rather than to the Ministry of the Peoples's Armed Forces, controlled three mechanized infantry divisions, three armored divisions, and twenty light infantry brigades subordinate to the Eighth Special Corps. During the early 1990s, the VIII Special Corps was renamed the Light Infantry Training and Guidance Bureau.

The Reconnaissance Bureau is composed of five departments, a number of operational units and reconnaissance brigades, and shares with the Liaison and Operations Departments some of the responsibility for training and dispatching espionage and subversive agents to the south. It maintains a training center, the 907th Army Unit, to train South Korean Army personnel who have been abducted, or have defected to North Korea.

Since the 1960s, North Korea has increasingly developed its SOF manpower. These forces, which include the KPA special operations force (SOF), are the world’s largest, enjoy the highest military funding priority for the regime, and are tough, well-trained, and profoundly loyal. It is extremely difficult to determine the actual manpower count for SOF because of its nature. North Korea maintains a formidable special purpose force between 88,000-122,000 troops, with between 80,000 and 100,000 probably adjudged to be SOF. This significant increase signals the probable intentions of North Korea to usethese forces in the fight for the rear area as the First Front.

DecadesSOFPersonnel Strength 1960s1,800 1970s41,000 1980s80,000 1990s100,000 2000s120,000 Nearly 60,000 military personnel assigned to the 22 SOF brigades and light infantry battalions in the late 1990s would be available to open a second front in CFC's rear area. These forces have five basic missions: conducting reconnaissance, performing combat operations in concert with conventional operations, establishing a second front in the enemy's rear area, countering CFC special operations in the North's rear areas, and maintaining internal security. These forces perform operations at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. During offensive operations, corps reconnaissance units would conduct penetration missions to collect military intelligence and launch raids on military and civilian targets.

Prior to the main attack, some units would infiltrate behind allied lines by air and sea, while others would cross into the ROK through tunnels under the DMZ. These units would penetrate at night to locate and destroy command posts, create confusion in rear areas, interdict troop and supply convoys, attack military and civilian installations (to include ports and airfields), and gain control of critical terrain.

Though light infantry units will perform SOF missions, all NKA divisions and brigades will have a light infantry element which will be forward deployed to conduct conventional infantry tactics in the offense. Light infantry SOF missions will include combat operations conducted by company or battalion size units against military, political, or economic targets. Sniper operations basically are the same as light infantry SOF except they are conducted in team-size units. North Korea's SOF will perform operations at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. Basically, strategic operations will support national or MPAF objectives, operational operations will support corps objectives, and tactical operations will support maneuver divisions and brigades.

SOF strategic missions will include reconnaissance, sniper, and agent operations. Strategic reconnaissance will be intended to ascertain CFC intentions, develop targeting information, conduct poststrike assessments of CFC units and facilities, and assess the potential reactions of the South Korean civilian and military populace. Sniper missions will include attacking critical nodes, such as special weapon delivery systems and storage facilities, command, control, and communications facilities of combined field command and higher, and air and air defense facilities. In addition, snipers will attempt to assassinate, kidnap, and/or interrogate key personnel to hinder allied operations and lower morale. SOF operational missions will include reconnaissance, sniper, and light infantry operations.

Operational reconnaissance will be conducted to ascertain CFC intentions, develop targeting information for SSMs and long-range artillery, conduct poststrike assessments, and determine the status of LOCs, chokepoints, and CFC reserve locations. At the operational level, sniper missions will be similar to those at the strategic level but will also include attacking port facilities and major LOCs. Light infantry units will concentrate on attacking division and higher command posts, capturing key terrain to assist maneuvering units, and locating CFC reserve forces.

The tactical mission of the SOF will be to support maneuver divisions and brigades objectives with light infantry operations. The organic reconnaissance element of the maneuver unit will perform tactical reconnaissance. Both the light infantry and reconnaissance elements will develop targets for destruction. These targets will include CFC command, control, and communications facilities, air and air defense sites, CFC force concentrations, and LOCs. Light infantry units will concentrate on attacking brigade and division command posts, capturing key terrain, and locating and destroying CFC reserve forces.

Personnel selection for SOF units come from politically reliable troops who are members in good standing of the Korean Workers Party and who have served 4 to 7 years in the combat branches. Only under special circumstances (language capabilities and technical skills) will they be recruited and trained directly from civilian status. 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.

During combat operations it can be expected that many deep-strike SOF personnel will be attired in civilian clothing or South Korean military uniforms. Infiltrations will normally occur at night or during periods of limited visibility, with the assistance of escorts who are familiar with the area. The equipment carried by most SOF personnel will vary considerably, depending on the mission. Typical equipment will include a dagger and/ or bayonet, pistols (to include silenced versions), rifles (AK-47 or M-16), submachine guns, hand grenades/demolitions, rocket launchers (RPG-7 or AT-3), 60-mm mortars, or other allied weapons.

North Korean SOF infiltration methods into CFC rear areas will include: overland, through tunnels under the DMZ, air, and from the sea. The NKAF will support SOF operations with airborne infiltration and resupply missions. The primary aerial insertion aircraft will be the An-2/ COLT and helicopters. The NKN will support SOF operations by using amphibious operations, covert sea infiltration, and resupply. The principal vessels that will be used to support these operations will be the KONG BANG I/II/III, NAMPO A/B LCPA (air-cushioned), and NAMPO LCPs. In addition, mini-submarine and semi-submersible insertion craft may also be used to support SOF operations from the sea.


820 Armor Corps
Division Brigade Battalion Location Equipment
HQ Bn, 820 Armor Corps Koksan
Corps HQ Guard Co.
U/I Lt. Infantry BN
U/I Tech Engineer BN
U/I Signal BN
U/I Chemical BN
U/I River-crossing Engineer Rgt
U/I BN S Type lt Pontoon
U/I BN K-61
U/I Tech Engineer BN
U/I Artillery BDE
U/I Artillery BN 122mm SP
U/I Artillery BN 130mm SP
U/I Artillery BN 152mm SP
U/I Artillery BDE
U/I Artillery BN 122mm MRL
U/I Artillery BN 240mm MRL
U/I Anit-Aircraft Arty Rgt
U/I AAA BN ZSU-57 SP
U/I AAA BN 37mm SP
U/I AAA BN 14.5mm AAMG SP
U/I Rear Services Dept
U/I Motor Transport BN
U/I Maintenance BN
U/I Field Hospital
U/I Ordnance Sup Det
U/I Supply Sect
U/I Anit-Aircraft Arty Rgt
U/I AAA BN ZSU-57 SP
U/I AAA BN 37mm SP
U/I AAA BN 14.5mm AAMG SP
U/I Armor BDE Ichon
U/I Engineer Co
U/I Armor BN T-62
U/I Armor BN T-62
U/I Armor BN T-62
U/I Lt. Tank BN M-1985
or Type-62
or PT-76
U/I Mech Infantry BN VTT-323
or BTR-60
U/I Artillery BN 122mm SP
/152mm SP
U/I AAA BN ZSU-57 SP/
37mm SP/
14.5mm AAMG SP
U/I Tech. Support BN
U/I Armor BDE Hwanghae-bukdo
U/I Engineer Co
U/I Armor BN T-62
U/I Armor BN T-62
U/I Armor BN T-62
U/I Lt. Tank BN M-1985
or Type-62
or PT-76
U/I Mech Infantry BN VTT-323
or BTR-60
U/I Artillery BN 122mm SP
/152mm SP
U/I AAA BN ZSU-57 SP/
37mm SP/
14.5mm AAMG SP
U/I Tech. Support BN
U/I Armor BDE Hwanghae-bukdo
U/I Engineer Co
U/I Armor BN T-62
U/I Armor BN T-62
U/I Armor BN T-62
U/I Lt. Tank BN M-1985
or Type-62
or PT-76
U/I Mech Infantry BN VTT-323
or BTR-60
U/I Artillery BN 122mm SP
/152mm SP
U/I AAA BN ZSU-57 SP/
37mm SP/
14.5mm AAMG SP
U/I Tech. Support BN
15 Mech Infantry BDE Singgye
U/I Engineer Co
U/I Signal Co
U/I Chemical Co
U/I Reconnaissance Co M-1985
or Type-62
or PT-76
U/I Tech Support Co
U/I Mech Infantry BN VTT-323
or BTR-60
U/I Motor Infantry BN
U/I Motor Infantry BN
U/I Motor Infantry BN
U/I Armor BN T-62
U/I AAA BN ZSU-57 SP/
37mm SP/
14.5mm AAMG SP
U/I Anti-tank BN BRDM AT-3/-4
105 Armor Division Koksan
U/I Lt. Infantry BN
U/I Engineer BN
U/I Signal BN
U/I Chemical BN
U/I Armor BDE
U/I Engineer Co
U/I Armor BN T-62
U/I Armor BN T-62
U/I Armor BN T-62
U/I Lt. Tank BN M-1985 or Type-62 or PT-76
U/I Mech Infantry BN BMP-1
U/I Artillery BN 122mm SP
U/I Artillery BN 152mm SP
U/I AAA BN ZSU-57 SP/
37mm SP/
14.5mm AAMG SP
U/I Tech. Support BN
U/I Armor BDE
U/I Engineer Co
U/I Armor BN T-62
U/I Armor BN T-62
U/I Armor BN T-62
U/I Lt. Tank BN M-1985 or Type-62 or PT-76
U/I Mech Infantry BN BMP-1
U/I Artillery BN 122mm SP
U/I Artillery BN 152mm SP
U/I AAA BN ZSU-57 SP/
37mm SP/
14.5mm AAMG SP
U/I Tech. Support BN
206 Mech Infantry BDE
U/I Engineer Co
U/I Signal Co
U/I Chemical Co
U/I Reconnaissance Co
U/I Tech Support Co
U/I Mech Infantry BN BMP-1
U/I Mech Infantry BN BMP-1
U/I Mech Infantry BN BMP-1
U/I Armor BN T-62
U/I Artillery BN 122mm SP
U/I Artillery BN 152mm SP
U/I Artillery BN 122mm MRL
U/I AAA BN ZSU-57 SP/
37mm SP/
14.5mm AAMG SP
U/I Anti-tank BN BRDM AT-3/-4
303 Artillery BDE
U/I Artillery BN 122mm SP
U/I Artillery BN 152mm SP
U/I Rear Services Dept
U/I Motor Transport BN
U/I Maintenance BN
U/I Field Hospital
U/I Ordnance Sup Det
U/I Supply Sect



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