Comparative military ranks of Korea

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Comparative military ranks of Korea refer to the ranks and insignia maintained by the three primary military powers present on the Korean Peninsula, those being the Republic of Korea Armed Forces (South Korea), the Korean People's Army of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), and the military forces of the United States in South Korea.

In the South Korean armed forces, ranks fall into one of four categories: commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer, and enlisted, in decreasing order of authority. Commissioned officer ranks are subdivided into "Janggwan"-level (general) officers, "Yeonggwan"-level (field-grade) officers, and "Wi-gwan"-level (company-grade) officers. The ranks of all three branches (the Army, Navy, and Air Force) of the South Korean Armed Forces share the same titles in Hangul. Most ranks of South and North Korea are identical, with some exceptions such as the supreme North Korean ranks.

The following table lists the comparative ranks of the militaries in Korea, including their rank titles and insignia. In this table, the North Korean military rank insignia shown is that of their Army field uniform shoulder boards; their parade uniforms and uniforms of other branches use alternative color schemes with the same basic design. The South Korean and U.S. militaries likewise have subdued versions of their insignia in each of their branches.

(Note on romanization: In the article, all South Korean ranks are spelled accordingly with the Revised Romanization of Korean system; all North Korean ranks use the McCune-Reischauer system.)

Special ranks[edit]

These ranks are honorary ranks and are not considered part of the main rank scheme.

North Korean rank North Korean insignia U.S. Army/U.S. Air Force/U.S. Marine Corps equivalent U.S. Navy equivalent
대원수 Dae wonsu (Grand Marshal)[a]
Generalissimo rank insignia (North Korea).svg
공화국원수 Konghwaguk Wonsu (Marshal of the DPRK)[b]
Marshal of the DPRK rank insignia.svg

Officer ranks[edit]

The shoulder boards and sleeve stripes of American and South Korean ranks apply only to their navies. Neither the U.S. Marine Corps or ROK Marine Corps maintains a five star "General" rank. North Korea's People's Army does not maintain a separate marine corps or naval infantry branch as part of their armed forces, although it does maintain two "Amphibious Sniper Brigades" as part of the North Korean Special Operation Force (NKSOF). North Korean insignia follow the Soviet pattern, while South Korean insignia follow a mix of United States and British rank insignia traditions.

장교 (將校) Janggyo (Commissioned officer ranks)
NATO Rank Code North Korean rank North Korean insignia South Korean rank South Korean insignia U.S. Army/U.S. Air Force/U.S. Marine Corps equivalent U.S. Navy equivalent American insignia
장관 (將官) Janggwan (General officer/Flag officer ranks)
OF-10 원수 Wonsu (Marshal of the KPA)[c]
Marshal of the KPA rank insignia.svg
원수 (元帥) Wonsu (Marshal of the ROK/Fleet Admiral of the ROK)[d] 원수.JPG General of the Army/Air Force Fleet Admiral US Navy O11 insignia.svg
OF-9 차수 Ch'asu (Vice Marshal)[e]
Vice-Marshal rank insignia (North Korea).svg
대장 (大將) Daejang (General/Admiral) 대장 견장.JPG General Admiral US Navy O10 insignia.svg
OF-8 대장 Taejang (General of the Army/Air Force, Fleet Admiral)
General of the Army rank insignia (North Korea).svg
중장 (中將) Jungjang (Lieutenant General/Vice Admiral) 중장 견장.JPG Lieutenant General Vice Admiral US Navy O9 insignia.svg
상장 Sangjang (Colonel General/Admiral)
Colonel General rank insignia (North Korea).svg
OF-7 중장 Chungjang (Lieutenant General/Vice Admiral)
Lieutenant General rank insignia (North Korea).svg
소장 (少將) Sojang (Major General/Rear Admiral) 소장 견장.JPG Major General Rear Admiral (upper half) US Navy O8 insignia.svg
OF-6 소장 Sojang (Major General/Rear Admiral)
Major General rank insignia (North Korea).svg
준장 (准將) Junjang (Brigadier General/Commodore Admiral) 준장 견장.JPG Brigadier General Rear Admiral (lower half) US Navy O7 insignia.svg
영관 (領官) Yeonggwan (Field-grade officer ranks)
OF-5 대좌 Taejwa (Senior Colonel/
Senior Captain)
Senior Colonel rank insignia (North Korea).svg
대령 (大領) Daeryeong (Colonel/Captain) 대령 견장.JPG Colonel Captain US Navy O6 insignia.svg
상좌 Sangjwa (Colonel/Captain)
Colonel rank insignia (North Korea).svg
OF-4 중좌 Chungjwa (Lieutenant Colonel/Commander)
Lieutenant Colonel rank insignia (North Korea).svg
중령 (中領) Jungnyeong (Lieutenant Colonel/Commander) 중령 견장.JPG Lieutenant Colonel Commander US Navy O5 insignia.svg
OF-3 소좌 Sojwa (Major/Lieutenant Commander)
Major rank insignia (North Korea).svg
소령 (少領) Soryeong (Major/Lieutenant Commander) 소령 견장.JPG Major Lieutenant Commander US Navy O4 insignia.svg
위관 (尉官) Wi-gwan (Company-grade officer ranks)
OF-2 대위 Taewi (Captain/Captain Lieutenant)
Captain rank insignia (North Korea).svg
대위 (大尉) Daewi (Captain/Lieutenant) 대위 견장.JPG Captain Lieutenant US Navy O3 insignia.svg
상위 Sangwi (Senior Lieutenant)
Senior Lieutenant rank insignia (North Korea).svg
OF-1 중위 Chungwi (Lieutenant)
Lieutenant rank insignia (North Korea).svg
중위 (中尉) Jungwi (First Lieutenant/Lieutenant (junior grade)) 중위 견장.JPG First Lieutenant Lieutenant (junior grade) US Navy O2 insignia.svg
소위 Sowi (Junior Lieutenant)
Junior Lieutenant rank insignia (North Korea).svg
소위 (少尉) Sowi (Second Lieutenant/Ensign) 소위 견장.JPG Second Lieutenant Ensign US Navy O1 insignia.svg

Enlisted ranks[edit]

Both North Korea and South Korea share the same enlisted rank structure among all of their military branches. They also have enlisted ranks called "Corporal" and "Sergeant" in English, but they are not considered non-commissioned officer ranks, though they are treated as one if they hold an NCO position.

All branches of the South Korean armed forces maintain a single Warrant Officer rank known as Junwi. Warrant Officers fall in between non-commissioned and commissioned officers. The rank is denoted by a gold-colored Sowi insignia and, in the case of the South Korean Navy, a single broken sleeve stripe. The North Korean military does not maintain any equivalent Warrant Officer positions.

Enlisted rank insignia differ however: The ROKAF uses a mix of US, British and French practice while the KPA's insignia follow Soviet practice.

병사 (兵士) Byeong-sa (Soldier ranks)
NATO Rank Code North Korean rank North Korean insignia South Korean rank South Korean insignia U.S. Army equivalent U.S. Army insignia U.S. Air Force equivalent USAF insignia U.S. Navy equivalent USN insignia
(sleeve)
USN insignia
(collar)
U.S. Marine Corps equivalent USMC insignia
준사관 (准士官) Junsa-gwan (Warrant officer ranks)
rank insignia
W-1
no equivalent
준위 (准尉) Junwi (Warrant Officer)
준위.JPG
Warrant officer (United States)
U.S. Army warrant officer 1 rank insignia
no equivalent no insgnia Chief Warrant Officer Two US Navy CW2 insignia.svg Warrant Officer
USMC warrant officer 1 rank insignia
부사관 (副士官) Busa-gwan (Non-commissioned officer ranks)
OR-9
no equivalent
현사 (賢士) Hyunsa (Command Sergeant Major,
Command Chief Master Sergeant,
Command Master Chief Petty Officer)
Sergeant Major Army-USA-OR-09c.svg Chief Master Sergeant E9a USAF CMSGT.svg Master Chief Petty Officer MCPO GC.png MCPO collar.png Sergeant Major USMC-E9-SGM.svg
OR-8 특무상사 T'ŭkmusangsa (Sergeant Major/Master Chief Petty Officer)
Chief Master Sergeant rank insignia (North Korea).svg
원사 (元士) Wonsa (Sergeant Major,
Chief Master Sergeant
/Master Chief Petty Officer)
원사2.JPG
Master Sergeant Army-USA-OR-08b.svg Senior Master Sergeant E8a USAF SMSGT.svg Senior Chief Petty Officer SCPO GC.png SCPO collar.png Master Sergeant USMC-E8-MSG.svg
OR-7 상사 Sangsa (Master Sergeant/Senior Chief Petty Officer)
Senior Sergeant rank insignia (North Korea).svg
상사 (上士) Sangsa (Master Sergeant/Senior Chief Petty Officer)
상사.JPG
Sergeant First Class Army-USA-OR-07.svg Master Sergeant E7a USAF MSGT.svg Chief Petty Officer CPO GC.png CPO collar.png Gunnery Sergeant USMC-E7.svg
OR-6 중사 Chungsa (Sergeant First Class/Chief Petty Officer)
Sergeant rank insignia (North Korea).svg
중사 (中士) Jungsa (Sergeant First Class/Chief Petty Officer)
중사.JPG
Staff Sergeant Army-USA-OR-06.svg Technical Sergeant E6 USAF TSGT.svg Petty Officer First Class PO1 NOGC.png PO1 Collar Silver USN.png Staff Sergeant USMC-E6.svg
OR-5 하사 Hasa (Staff Sergeant/Petty Officer 1st Class)
Junior Sergeant rank insignia (North Korea).svg
하사 (下士) Hasa (Staff Sergeant/Petty Officer 1st Class)
하사.JPG
Sergeant Army-USA-OR-05.svg Staff Sergeant E5 USAF SSGT.svg Petty Officer Second Class PO2 NOGC.png PO2 Collar Silver USN.png Sergeant USMC-E5.svg
OR-4
no equivalent
no equivalent
Corporal Army-USA-OR-04a.svg
no equivalent
Petty Officer Third Class PO3 NOGC.png PO3 collar.png Corporal USMC-E4.svg
(兵) Byeong (Enlisted ranks)
OR-4 상급병사 Sanggŭp-pyŏngsa (Sergeant/Petty Officer 2nd Class)
Senior Corporal rank insignia (North Korea).svg
병장 (兵長) Byeongjang (Sergeant/Petty Officer 2nd Class) ROK Army Byeongjang.png Specialist Army-USA-OR-04b.svg Senior Airman E4 USAF SAM.svg
no equivalent
no equivalent
상병 (上兵) Sangbyeong (Corporal/Petty Officer 3rd Class) ROK Army Sangbyeong.png
OR-3 중급병사 Chungŭp-pyŏngsa (Corporal/Petty Officer 3rd Class)
Corporal rank insignia (North Korea).svg
일병 (一兵) Ilbyeong (Private First Class,/Airman First Class,
/Seaman)
ROK Army Ilbyeong.png Private First Class Army-USA-OR-03.svg Airman First Class E3 USAF AM1.svg Seaman E3 SM USN.png USN - Seaman.png Lance Corporal USMC-E3.svg
OR-2 하급병사 Hagŭp-pyŏngsa (Private First Class,/Airman First Class,
/Seaman)
Lance Сorporal rank insignia (North Korea).svg
이병 (二兵) Ibyeong (Private,
Airman/Seaman Apprentice)
ROK Army Ibyeong.png Private (PV2) Army-USA-OR-02.svg Airman E2 USAF AM.svg Seaman Apprentice E2 SM USN.png USN - Seaman Apprentice.png Private First Class USMC-E2.svg
OR-1 전사 Chŏnsa (Private,
Airman,
Seaman Recruit)
Private rank insignia (North Korea).svg
장정 (壯丁) Jangjeong (Recruit)[f]
no insignia
Private (PVT)
no insignia
Airman Basic
no insignia
Seaman Recruit
no insignia
Private
no insignia

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Highest possible political-military rank of North Korea and is intended to be an honorific title for the nation’s Great Leaders.
  2. ^ Highest political-military rank reserved only for Supreme Leader of North Korea.
  3. ^ Highest military rank of North Korea, combined political-military position. Only three people where promoted to this rank.
  4. ^ No one has yet held the five-star rank of Won-su in the history of the ROK Armed Forces.
  5. ^ The rank is senior to that of daejang (general) and junior to that of wonsu (marshal). The rank is seldom bestowed upon the professional military, also combined political-military position.
  6. ^ The Jangjeong rank is the official title of an entry-level recruit in the South Korean military, which they hold until they are assigned a higher rank following their basic training. More common terms include 무등병 (無等兵) Mudeungbyeong (rank-less soldier) and 훈련병 (訓練兵) Hullyeonbyeong (trainee).