Korean People's Army Ground Force

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This article is about the North Korean army. For the North Korean armed forces, see Korean People's Army.
조선인민군 육군
朝鮮人民軍 陸軍
Korean People's Army Ground Force
Flag of the Korean People's Army Ground Force.svg
The flag of the Korean People's Army.
Founded August 20, 1947
Country  North Korea
Type Army
Engagements Korean War
Choi Yong-kun, Kim Chaek

The Korean People's Army Ground Force (KPAGF; Chosŏn'gŭl: 조선인민군 육군; Hanja: 朝鮮人民軍 陸軍) is the main branch of the Korean People's Army responsible for land-based military operations. It is the de facto army of North Korea.


The force was formed in the late 1940s and it outnumbered and outgunned the South Korean Army on the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950. North Korean ground forces formations which fought in the Korean War included the II and V Corps, the 105th Armored Division, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 12th, 19th, and 43rd Infantry Divisions. During the Korean War it also contained a number of independent units such as the 766th Infantry Regiment.

In 1960 the KPA GF may have totaled fewer than 400,000 persons and probably did not rise much above that figure before 1972. The force expanded over the next two decades. In 1992, there were approximately 1 million personnel.[1] Before this expansion of the North Korean ground forces, the South Korean Army outnumbered the North Korean Army. From the 1970s on, South Korea started exceeding North Korea in terms of economics. Thus, South Korea could modernize its forces, which alerted North Korea and resulted in the expansion of the North Korean military. Ironically, the weaker of the two Koreas has maintained the larger armed force. The size, organization, disposition, and combat capabilities of the Ground Force give Pyongyang military options both for offensive operations to reunify the peninsula and for credible defensive operations against any perceived threat from South Korea.

Over time, this organization has adjusted to the unique circumstances of the military problem the KPA faces and to the evolution of North Korean military doctrine and thought.

Current status[edit]

The overwhelming majority of active ground forces are deployed in three echelons — a forward operational echelon of four infantry corps; supported by a second operational echelon of two mechanized corps, the armor corps, and an artillery corps; and a strategic reserve of the two remaining mechanized corps and the other artillery corps.[2] These forces include the 806th and 815th Mechanized Corps and the 820th Armored Corps. These forces are garrisoned along major north-south lines of communication that provide rapid, easy access to avenues of approach into South Korea. The KPA has positioned massive numbers of artillery pieces including some fakes,[citation needed] especially its longer-range systems, close to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas.

A KPA soldier at the DMZ

As of 2013 the DoD has reported the ground forces in number totals 950,000 in strength.[3]


The Ground Forces have a mixed of domestic and imported equipment in their inventory. Prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union, most of these items were Soviet made and later from China.

Main sources: [1] (note that this source is known to be quite outdated), [2], [3]

The annual report of North Korea's military capabilities by the U.S. Department of Defense, released in early 2014, identified the North Korean Army's strength at 950,000 personnel, 4,200 tanks, 2,200 armored vehicles, 8,600 artillery guns, and over 4,800 multiple rocket launchers.[4]


Name Type In Service Notes
Type 59 Main Battle Tank 1,000[5] some 2000 T-55 and Type 59 Tanks are thought to currently be in service
T-62 Main Battle Tank 1,000 Capable of receiving later model Ch'onma-Ho upgrades
T-55 Main Battle Tank 2,000 some 2000 T-55 and Type 59 Tanks are thought to currently be in service
PT-85 (Type-82) Amphibious Tank Unknown based on the VTT-323 APC chassis
PT-76 Amphibious Tank 500 some PT-76 are in reserve status
Ch'ŏnma-ho Main Battle Tank as high as 1,000 (as of the early 1990s) 1,000 manufactured (as of the early 1990s)
P'okpung-Ho Main Battle Tank at least 500 in service as of 2010 Locally designed Main Battle Tank, contains elements from T-62, T-72, Type 88, T-80 and T-90.

Armoured Personnel Carriers[edit]

Name Type In Service Notes
BMP-1 Infantry Fighting Vehicle 100 Designated as Korshuns
VTT-323 Armored Personnel Carrier Based on the YW-531
M-2010 Armored Personnel Carrier Based on the VTT-323 but with longer chassis and improved optics
Type 63 APC Armored Personnel Carrier Variant VTT-323 based on Chinese A531.
BTR-80 Armored Personnel Carrier 100 BTR-80A
BTR-60 Armored Personnel Carrier 1,000 First ordered 1966.
BTR-50P Amphibious Armored Personnel Carrier
Type 55 wheeled Armored Personnel Carrier Type 55
BTR-152 wheeled Armored Personnel Carrier
M1992 wheeled Armored Personnel Carrier Based on the BRDM-2[6]

Unarmoured vehicles[edit]

Name Type In Service Notes
GAZ Vodnik utility vehicle
Mercedes G-Class utility vehicle seen during the funeral of Kim Jong-il[7]
UAZ-469 utility vehicle
ZIL-130 general-purpose truck
ZIL-157 general-purpose truck
Ural-4320 general-purpose truck
MAZ-7310 missile system carrier
WS-51200 TEL Transporter erector launcher platform 10

Artillery guns[edit]

Name Type In Service Notes
76.2 mm coastal artillery gun
M-1985 152 mm gun-howitzer D-20/M1955; Type 83
M-1981 122 mm self-propelled gun Type 54 SPH
M-1978 170 mm SP gun-howitzer Largest Howitzer in KPA
M-1975 130 mm self-propelled gun
M-1974 152 mm SP gun-howitzer
M-1992 130 mm self-propelled gun
M-1991 122 mm self-propelled howitzer
M-1992 120 mm self-propelled combination gun
SU-100 100 mm SP assault gun
 ? mortars various ? North Korea is known to have some 10,000 mortars of different types and origin in its inventory

Rocket artillery[edit]

Name Type In Service Notes
Type 63 107 mm multiple rocket launcher
M-1985 122 mm multiple rocket launcher
BM-11 122 mm multiple rocket launcher
BMD-20 200 mm multiple rocket launcher
BM-24 240 mm multiple rocket launcher 500 delivered in 1955[citation needed]
M1985 240 mm rocket launcher
M-1991 240 mm rocket launcher
KN-09 300 mm rocket launcher [8]

Anti-tank weapons[edit]

Air Defense Weapons[edit]

    • SA-7 MANPADS (Locally Produced)
    • SA-14 MANPADS (Locally Produced)
    • SA-16 MANPADS (Locally Produced)
  • Guns
    • ZPU-4 AAA
    • ZSU-23-2 AAA
    • M1939 AAA
    • ZSU-57-2 SPAAG (500)
    • ZSU-23-4 SPAAG (100)
    • M1984 14.5mm SPAAG (Locally Produced)
    • M1985 57mm SPAAG (Locally Produced)
    • M1992 30mm SPAAG (Locally Produced)
    • M1992 37mm SPAAG (Locally Produced)

Small Arms[edit]

  • Pistols
    • Type 64 - Unlicensed copies of the Belgium FN M1900 pistol
    • Type 66 - Indigenous copies of the Makarov PM Pistol
    • Type 68 - Indigenous copies of the Soviet TT-33 pistol. Original batches and the Chinese-made Type 54 pistol were also used, but now retired.
    • Type 70 - Self-designed and produced pistol chambered in .32 ACP.
    • BaekDuSan - North Korean copy of the Czech CZ-75 pistol, issued to pilots. The Chinese-made NZ-75 pistols are also used.
    • FN Baby Browning
    • CZ 82 - Issued to senior ranks.
    • Browning Hi-Power
    • M1911 pistol
  • Submachine guns
    • PPS-43 - both Soviet PPS submachine guns and Chinese Type 54s
    • M3
  • Shotguns
  • Assault Rifles
  • Sniper Rifles
  • Machine Guns
  • Grenade Launchers
    • AGS-17 Automatic Grenade Launcher

Retired Small Arms[edit]

(Some probably kept in storage for Worker-Peasant Red Guards Units)

  • TT pistol - Soviet Union made Tokarev batches, replaced by the locally made Type 68 pistol.
  • Type 54 pistol - Chinese made Tokarev batches, replaced by the locally made Type 68 pistol.
  • PPSh-41 - Under the designation 'Type 49'
  • Type 100 - Japanese sub-machine gun, captured during World War II and used in the Korean War.
  • Mosin-Nagant - Now used for ceremonial purposes only
  • PPD-40
  • SVT-40
  • SG-43 Goryunov
  • DP
  • Type 63 Rifle - Locally produced variant of the Soviet SKS carbine. Now used by ceremonial and reserve forces of the KPA.

Ranks and uniforms[edit]


Korean People's Army Ground Forces has six categories of ranks; marshals, general officers, senior officers, junior officers, Non-commissioned Officers, and soldiers.


NCOs Soldiers
Chief Master Sergeant rank insignia (North Korea).svg Senior Sergeant rank insignia (North Korea).svg Sergeant rank insignia (North Korea).svg Junior Sergeant rank insignia (North Korea).svg Senior Corporal rank insignia (North Korea).svg Corporal rank insignia (North Korea).svg Lance Сorporal rank insignia (North Korea).svg Private rank insignia (North Korea).svg
Ranks in Korean T'ŭkmu-sangsa
Ranks Chief Master Sergeant Staff Sergeant Sergeant Junior Sergeant Corporal First Class Corporal Lance corporal Private


Generals Officers
General of the Army rank insignia (North Korea).svg Colonel General rank insignia (North Korea).svg Lieutenant General rank insignia (North Korea).svg Major General rank insignia (North Korea).svg Senior Colonel rank insignia (North Korea).svg Colonel rank insignia (North Korea).svg Lieutenant Colonel rank insignia (North Korea).svg Major rank insignia (North Korea).svg Captain rank insignia (North Korea).svg Senior Lieutenant rank insignia (North Korea).svg Lieutenant rank insignia (North Korea).svg Junior Lieutenant rank insignia (North Korea).svg
Ranks in Korean Taejang
Ranks General of the Army Colonel General Lieutenant General Major General Senior Colonel Colonel Lieutenant Colonel Major Captain Senior Lieutenant Lieutenant Junior Lieutenant


The Vice Marshal rank was created for a combined political-military position.

The Marshal of the KPA rank was created for a combined honorary promotion of political-military position.

Supreme commanders ranks are Marshal of the DPRK and Generalissimo.

Supreme commanders Marshals
Generalissimo rank insignia (North Korea).svg Marshal of the DPRK rank insignia.svg Marshal of the KPA rank insignia.svg Vice-Marshal rank insignia (North Korea).svg
Ranks in Korean Tae wonsu
Konghwaguk Wonsu
Ranks Generalissimo Marshal of the DPRK Marshal of the KPA Vice Marshal


KPAGF officers and soldiers are most often seen wearing a mix of olive green or tan uniforms. However the pictures depict of North Korean army in propaganda footage or formal setting. The basic dress uniform consists of a tunic and pants (white tunics for general officers in special occasions); female soldiers wear knee length skirts but can sometimes wear pants.

Caps or peaked caps, especially for officers (and sometimes berets for women) are worn in spring and summer months and a Russian style fur hat (the Ushanka hats) in winter. A variant of the Disruptive Pattern Material, the Disruptive Pattern Combat Uniform (green) and the M81 Woodland is also being worn by a few and rare images of North Korean army officers and service personnel. In Non-Dress uniforms a steel helmet (Soviet M-60 combat helmet) seems to be the most common headgear, and is sometimes worn with a camouflage covering.

Standard military boots are worn for combat, women wear low heel shoes or heel boots for formal parades.

Camouflage uniforms are slowly becoming more common in the KPA. During the April 15, 2012 parade Kevlar helmets were displayed in certain KPAGF units.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Federation of American Scientists, Korean Peoples' Army, accessed February 2008
  2. ^ Hodge, Homer T., "North Korea's Military Strategy", Hodge: 2003.
  3. ^ "MILITARY AND SECURITY DEVELOPMENTS INVOLVING THE DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF KOREA". http://www.defense.gov/pubs/North_Korea_Military_Power_Report_2013-2014.pdf. 
  4. ^ http://www.defense.gov/pubs/North_Korea_Military_Power_Report_2013-2014.pdf
  5. ^ Christopher F Foss. Jane's Armour and Artillery 2005-2006. 
  6. ^ M1992 - Military-Today.com
  7. ^ IBtimes.com "Kim Jong-il's Funeral Held in N. Korea"
  8. ^ The threat of North Korea’s new rocket artillery - NKnews.org, 13 March 2014

External links[edit]