Korean People's Army Ground Force

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from North Korea Ground Force)
Jump to: navigation, search
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
Allegiance Kim Jong-un
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 I Corps, the II and III Corps. The IV Corps and V Corps, VI and VII Corps were formed after the outbreak of war. Divisions included 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 armed forces. 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, albeit technologically inferior, possible options both for limited offensive operations to assault the lower half of the peninsula or for limited defensive operations against any perceived threat from South Korea.

Yossef Bodansky's Crisis in Korea, SP Books, 1994, gives an account of the North Korean order of battle in 1984-88 (p. 87-88).

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.

In 1996 a significant portion of the staff, along with local government officials, of the VI Corps was arrested and convicted of bribery and corruption.[2] The VI Corps HQ, which was in Chongjin, was in charge of military activities in the whole of North Hamgyong Province. It consisted of three infantry divisions, four rocket brigades and one artillery division. Joseph F. Bermudez reports in Shield of the Great Leader that the incident was not a coup, but it is often reported as such.[3] In any event, the corps was disbanded, and its units reallocated elsewhere, some to IX Corps in North Hamgyong Province. IX Corps now includes 24th Division and 42nd Division.

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.[4] 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.

KPA soldiers at the DMZ

As of 2013, the US DoD has reported the ground forces in number totals 950,000 in strength.[5]


The Ground Forces have a mix 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.[6]


Name Type Quantity Origin Photo Notes
T-55 Main battle tank 2,000  Soviet Union T-55 4.jpg Some 2000 T-55 and Type 59 Tanks are thought to currently be in service.
T-62M Main battle tank 1,000  Soviet Union Cubatanques.jpg Capable of receiving later model Ch'onma-Ho upgrades.
Type 59 Main battle tank 1,000[7]  People's Republic of China Type 59 bovington.JPG Some 2,000 T-55 and Type 59 tanks are thought to currently be in service.
Ch'ŏnma-ho Main battle tank ~1,000  Democratic People's Republic of Korea Tank 3.jpg 1,000 manufactured (as of the early 1990s).
P'okpung-ho Main battle tank ~500 in service as of 2010  Democratic People's Republic of Korea Pokpung-ho.png Locally designed main battle tank. Contains elements from T-62, T-72, Type 88, T-80 and T-90.
PT-76 Amphibious light tank 500  Soviet Union Verkhnyaya Pyshma Tank Museum 2012 0181.jpg Some PT-76 are in reserve status.
Type 63 Amphibious light tank N/A  People's Republic of China Type 63 tank - above.jpg [8]
PT-85 (Type-82) Amphibious light tank N/A  Democratic People's Republic of Korea Verkhnyaya Pyshma Tank Museum 2012 0181.jpg Based on the VTT-323 APC chassis.

Armoured Personnel Carriers & Infantry Fighting Vehicle[edit]

Name Type Quantity Origin Photo Notes
BMP-1 Infantry fighting vehicle 100  Soviet Union Finnish BMP1 Parola 2.jpg Designated as Korshuns.
BTR-152 Armored personnel carrier N/A  Soviet Union BTR-152-TCM-20-hatzerim-2.jpg
BTR-50P Armored personnel carrier N/A  Soviet Union BTR-50-latrun-1-2.jpg
BTR-60PB Armored personnel carrier 1,000  Soviet Union BTR-60PB front left.JPEG First ordered in 1966.
BTR-80A Armored personnel carrier 100  Soviet Union Engineering Technologies - 2012 (3-14).jpg
Type 55 Armored personnel carrier N/A  People's Republic of China BTR 152 Yerevan.JPG
Type 63 APC Armored personnel carrier 500  Democratic People's Republic of Korea Type 63 APC at the Beijing Military Museum - 1.jpg Variant VTT-323 based on Chinese A531.
M1992 Armored personnel carrier N/A  Democratic People's Republic of Korea PL MWP Brdm2.JPG Locally designed APC based on the BRDM-2.[9] Armed with an AGS-17 grenade launcher and a 9K111 Fagot ATGM.
VTT-323 (M-1973) Armored personnel carrier N/A  Democratic People's Republic of Korea VTT 323.jpg Based on the YW-531.
M-2010 Armored personnel carrier N/A  Democratic People's Republic of Korea VTT 323.jpg Based on the VTT-323 but with longer chassis and improved optics.

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[10]
UAZ-469 utility vehicle
ZIL-130 general-purpose truck
ZIL-157 general-purpose truck
Ural-4320 general-purpose truck
FAW MV3 general-purpose truck
MAZ-7310 missile system carrier
WS-51200 TEL Transporter erector launcher platform 10

Artillery guns[edit]

According to Global Security, North Korea has 9,000 Field Artillery pieces, all operated by the KPA-GF, of which 4,500 are self-propelled artillery (majority of them produced by the KPA's military arsensals) and 3,500 are towed guns.[11]

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]

According to Global Security the KPA-GF has North Korea's 5,100 Multiple Rocket Launchers, with hundreds of them being locally manufactured.[11]

Name Type In Service Notes
Type 63 107 mm multiple rocket launcher 4000 delivered between 1964-1990
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 Mounted on Romanian DAC trucks
KN-09 300 mm rocket launcher [12]

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
    • ZU-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]

In South Korea, Most of North Korean Small Arms Showcased in Many Military Exhibition Place such as War Memorial of Korea, tourist site of North Korean infiltration tunnels. or for the purpose of inspiring patriotism to citizens, Korean Defense Intelligence Command(KDIC) displaying a North Korean Equipment(most of them used to Special Forces) on an exhibition van in various military-related events place such as military units or public establishments.[13]

Name Country of origin Type Notes
Type 64  Soviet Union /  North Korea Semi-automatic pistol Unlicensed copy
Type 66  Soviet Union /  North Korea Semi-automatic pistol Indigenous copy
Type 68  Soviet Union /  North Korea Semi-automatic pistol Indigenous copy
Type 70  North Korea Semi-automatic pistol Self-designed and produced; chambered in .32 ACP
BaekDuSan  Czech Republic /  North Korea Semi-automatic pistol Issued to high-ranking officers, pilots, and special force members
Norinco NZ-75  PRC /  North Korea Semi-automatic pistol
FN Baby Browning  Belgium Semi-automatic pistol Issued to spies
CZ 82  Czech Republic Semi-automatic pistol Issued to senior officers
Inglis Hi-Power  Canada Semi-automatic pistol Issued to spies and special force members
M1911 pistol  USA Semi-automatic pistol Issued to Kim Jong-un's bodyguards
PPS-43  Soviet Union /  PRC Sub-machine gun Both Soviet PPS submachine guns and Chinese Type 54s
M3  USA Sub-machine gun
KS-23  Soviet Union Shotgun
Type 56  PRC Assault rifle
Norinco CQ  PRC  PRK Assault rifle
M16A1  United States
 North Korea
Assault rifle Probably unlicensed copies; used by special forces members [14][15]
SAR-80  Singapore Assault rifle Probably unlicensed copies; used by special forces members
Type 58  North Korea Assault rifle Standard issue of KPA reserve forces
Type 68  Soviet Union /  North Korea Assault rifle Standard issue among North Korean infantry and being slowly supplanted by the Type 88 or 98s
Type 98  North Korea Assault rifle Slowly supplanting the Type 68 as the future standard issue rifle of the KPA
Dragunov SVD  Soviet Union Sniper rifle
PSL  Socialist Republic of Romania Sniper rifle
RPK  Soviet Union Light machine gun Manufactured as Type 64
PKM  Soviet Union Machine gun
RPD  North Korea Light machine gun
Type 73  North Korea Light machine gun Indigenous design based on the Vz. 52 machine gun and the Kalashnikov PK machine gun design
Nikonov machine gun  Soviet Union Light machine gun
NSV machine gun  Soviet Union  North Korea Light machine gun
RP-46  Soviet Union Light machine gun
DShKM  Soviet Union  North Korea Heavy machine gun Standard issue
KPV  Soviet Union Heavy machine gun
RPG-7  Soviet Union  North Korea Rocket-propelled grenade launcher Manufactured as Type 68
GP-25  Soviet Union  North Korea Grenade launcher
AGS-17  Soviet Union  North Korea 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. 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), the M81 Woodland and the Tigerstripe 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. ^ Joseph F. Bermudez, Shield of the Great Leader, 2001, 59.
  3. ^ http://www.dailynk.com/english/read.php?num=7321&cataId=nk02100
  4. ^ Hodge, Homer T., "North Korea's Military Strategy", Hodge: 2003.
  5. ^ "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.  External link in |website= (help);
  6. ^ http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/North_Korea_Military_Power_Report_2013-2014.pdf
  7. ^ Christopher F Foss. Jane's Armour and Artillery 2005-2006. 
  8. ^ North Korean Army Tanks, Vehicles and Artillery Since 1950. Military Factory. 9 May 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  9. ^ M1992 - Military-Today.com
  10. ^ IBtimes.com "Kim Jong-il's Funeral Held in N. Korea"
  11. ^ a b http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/dprk/kpa-equipment.htm
  12. ^ The threat of North Korea’s new rocket artillery - NKnews.org, 13 March 2014
  13. ^ "N. Korean special operation forces infiltration van showcased for 19th ESC senior leader development". DVIDS - Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System. 4 Aug 2014. 
  14. ^ "A Weapon Displayed From North Korea Special Forces and their Submarine". MBC News. 25 September 1996. 
  15. ^ "Equipment of North Korean Special Forces and Espionage". Yu Yong-won's Military World, Chosun Ilbo. 16 April 2013. 
  • Robert A. Scalapino, Chong-Sik Lee, Communism in Korea: The society, University of California Press, 1972 - Political Science

External links[edit]