Republic of Korea Marine Corps

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Republic of Korea Marine Corps
대한민국 해병대
大韓民國 海兵隊
Daehanminguk Haebyeongdae
Seal of the Republic of Korea Marine Corps.svg
Seal of the Republic of Korea Marine Corps
ActiveApril 15, 1949 (1949-04-15) – present
Country South Korea
TypeMarine combined arms
RoleAmphibious warfare
Size29,000 (2018)
Part of Republic of Korea Navy (since 1949)
HeadquartersHQ Republic of Korea Marine Corps Hwaseong, Gyeonggi, South Korea
Nickname(s)무적 해병
(無敵海兵, Invincible Marines)
귀신잡는 해병대
(Marine Corps: The Devil Catchers)
Motto(s)한번 해병은 영원한 해병
(Once a Marine, Always a Marine)
Mascot(s)Jindo Dog
EngagementsKorean War
Vietnam War
Global War on Terrorism
Commander-in-ChiefPresident Moon Jae-in
Minister of National DefenseJeong Kyeong-doo
Chief of Naval OperationsAdmiral Sim Seung-seob
Commandant of the Marine CorpsLt Gen Lee Seung-do
FlagFlag of the Republic of Korea Marine Corps.svg

The Republic of Korea Marine Corps (Korean: 대한민국 해병대), also known as the ROK Marine Corps (ROKMC), or the ROK Marines, is the marine corps of South Korea. The ROKMC is a branch of the Republic of Korea Navy responsible for amphibious operations,[1] and also functions as a rapid reaction force and a strategic reserve.

The ROKMC was founded as a suppression operations force against communist partisans in 1949, prior to the Korean War. The ROKMC also fought in combat during the Vietnam War.

The ROK Marine Corps, with 29,000 personnel, is organized into two divisions and two brigades under the Headquarters ROK Marine Corps. The ROK Marine Corps has about 300 tracked vehicles including assault amphibious vehicles, main battle tanks, and self-propelled artillery.


Founding years[edit]

Deoksan airfield (present-day Jinhae naval airfield) circa 1950

On April 15, 1949, the Republic of Korea Marine Corps (ROKMC) was founded at Deoksan airfield in Jinhae with an initial strength of 380 men and was modeled around the United States Marine Corps. Lieutenant Colonel Shin Hyun-joon was appointed to lead as the first Commandant of the newly formed Marine Corps and he was promoted to Colonel on July 1, 1949.[2] Early ROKMC troops were issued with many secondhand weapons from the Imperial Japanese Army used during World War II, including the 7.7 mm Type 99 Light Machine Gun.

The Marine Corps carried out suppression operations against communist elements in Jinju and Jeju-do. The ROKMC saw combat actions in the Korean War, including the Battle of Incheon. Throughout the Korean War, the ROKMC's role as a readily deployable amphibious force was defined. In 1955, the 1st Marine Division was established.

Vietnam War and 1970s[edit]

ROK Marines prepare defensive positions near Tuy Hòa in S. Vietnam circa 1965

South Korean President Park Chung Hee asked to participate in the Many Flags program and sent military units into Vietnam, despite opposition from both the Assembly and the public. In exchange, the United States agreed to reimburse additional military budgets to South Korea to help modernize its armed forces, totaling about a billion dollars.

The three main units deployed to Vietnam were the ROKMC's Blue Dragon Brigade (Korean: 청룡; Hanja: 靑龍; Cheongryeong), ROKA Capital Division and the White Horse Division. Various South Korean special forces units were also deployed. The Republic of Korea Army's Tactical Area of Responsibility was the southern half of the I Corps. The ROKMC was deployed with the I Corps, alongside U.S. Marines.

In 1974, Commander Lee Dong-Yong of the 1st Marine Division modified the 1st Division's infantry regiment to specialize its each of 3 battalions to Airborne/Amphibious Infiltration/Ranger. This system distinguishes the 1st Marine Division from other ROKMC divisions and brigades.


In 1982, ROKMC established the '812th "Hammer" Unit'. Their mission was to perform retaliation operations against the DPRK forces. The unit's motto was 'Kill'em all, Let God sort'em out'. Their training included a 10 km ruck march in an hour with full combat gear, and carrying a 100 kg IBS(Inflatable Boat Small) overhead. Training also included 12 km continuous sea swimming.[3]

In November 1987, the Headquarters Republic of Korea Marine Corps was re-established; it was disbanded in October 1973 due to budget constraint.[4]


ROKMC K9 self-propelled howitzer preparing a counterattack after the initial attack from North Korea

On November 23, 2010, the Bombardment of Yeonpyeong incident occurred. There was a rigorous engagement between the North Korean army and a South Korean marine corps YP unit. As a result of this event, the South Korean government cancelled its Military Reform Plan 2020 which was to downsize the number of Marine Corps personnel deployed in North-West islands. Instead, the South Korean government established the Military Reform Plan 307 (Plan 307).

Plan 307 affected ROKMC by deploying new ARTHUR artillery hunting radar to North-West islands until February 2012.[5]

With Plan 307, Northwest Islands Defense Command (NWIDC) was established on June 15, 2011.[6] ROKMC Commandant holds an additional position as NWIDC commander. With NWIDC, ROKMC Commandant can command Army, Navy, Airforce under NWIDC branch in actual combat situation.[7]

Plan 307 also includes a plan to fortify all 5 islands in the North-West area until 2015 by constructing bunkers for tanks, K-9 Thunder, K-10 ARV and civilians, digging trenches, establishing Guided-Missile unit which is equipped with 60 Spike missiles and 4 launchers,[8][9] deploying the Hostile Artillery Locating System (HALO) which is manufactured by the Selex Galileo company, creating an AH-1S Cobra unit under the 6th Marine Brigade in Baengnyeongdo, increasing size of artillery units in Yeonpyeong from company to battalion which changed their number of K-9 Thunder from 6 to 18,[10] deploying the K-SAM Chunma and the K-136 multiple rocket launcher to North-West islands and increasing numbers of marines in North-West islands by more than 1000.[11] On June 23, 2011, the South Korean National Assembly legislated a law that states the right that personnel management can be exercised by the ROKMC Commandant instead of the ROKN Chief of Naval Operations (Until 2011, the CNO exercised the latter), legislating the ROKMC Deputy Commandant, dividing and specifying ROKMC's main operation as 'amphibious operations' from ROKN 'naval operations', including the ROKMC Commandant as a formal member of the joint chiefs of the staff council, legislating the ROKMC Commandant as a member of the Defense Project Promotion Committee, giving him rights to select the uniform from CNO to the ROKMC Commandant and making the latter exercise the rights of the Management of Military Supplies of the ROKMC.[12][13]

By dividing the ROKMC's main operation from ROKN, ROKMC made a stepping-stone to become a National Strategic Mobile Force.

On October 15, 2011, The law mentioned above took effect. ROKMC retrieved their record of service back from ROKN on October 13. ROKMC started issuing new uniforms since October 1. The ROKMC used to wear their own distinct uniforms before 1973, but after the ROKMC HQ were dissolved, South Korean marines had to wear uniforms similar to those used by the South Korean navy (sans the sailor caps). This new uniform is different from the new uniform of the ROKA, ROKN and the ROKAF (these 3 forces use same uniform). The new uniform was designed to camouflage marine personnel for amphibious operations by using colors of beach, sand and seaweed.[14]

On June 4, 2012, Ministry of National Defense confirmed a plan to distribute 32 amphibious mobile helicopters to ROKMC. The ROKMC scheduled to activate an aviation group between 2017 and 2020 with 2 amphibious mobile helicopter battalions and 1 attack helicopter battalion with Colonel in chief.[15]


ROK Marines conducting Northwest Islands defense training

The marine corps, with 29,000 personnel, is organized into two divisions and two brigades under the Headquarters Republic of Korea Marine Corps. The Commandant of the Republic of Korea Marine Corps is a three-star general. After the bombardment of Yeonpyeong, the Commandant of the ROKMC also holds the commander position of the NWIDC (Northwest Islands Defense Command). The 1st Marine Division can operate in sea, air, land, with specializing its three infantry battalions under a single regiment to Airborne/Amphibious Assault/Ranger. Furthermore, the ROKMC's Recon units (two Reconnaissance Battalions and one Reconnaissance Company) hold various special warfare trainings such as scuba and parachuting.

In March 2016, the South Korean defense ministry announced the creation of a new "Spartan 3000" regiment consisting of 3,000 of South Korean marines. The unit will be combat ready to be deployed in any part of the Korean Peninsula within 24 hours in case of an attack from the DPRK forces and will be responsible for targeting high priority targets in North Korea including nuclear facilities. This new announcement also aims to make the ROK deployment strategy more efficient as it aims to be able to deploy a ROKMC regiment within 24 hours instead of the current 48 hours.[16][17]

The ROKMC relies on the ROK Navy for medical treatment of WIA, as specially trained Navy medics are to some extent integrated into the Marine Corps' units and also instructing fundamental first-aid techniques to new recruits (similar to the US Navy's Corpsmen).

Order of battle[edit]

ROKMC Recon Trainees conducting Small-Unit IBS Amphibious Raid
Marine Recon Trainees during Recon School (BRC)
  • Headquarters Republic of Korea Marine Corps/Northwest Islands Defense Command (대한민국 해병대사령부/서북도서방위사령부)
    • Education and Training Group (교육훈련단)
    • Logistics Group (군수단)
    • 1st Marine Division (Sea-Dragon, 제1해병사단)
      • Headquarters Battalion
      • 2nd Marine Regiment (Yellow-Dragon)
        • 21st Marine Battalion
        • 22nd Marine Battalion
        • 23rd Marine Battalion
      • 3rd Marine Regiment (King-Kong)
        • 31st Marine Battalion
        • 32nd Marine Battalion
        • 33rd Marine Battalion
      • 7th Marine Regiment (Warthog)
        • 71st Marine Battalion
        • 72nd Marine Battalion
        • 73rd Marine Battalion
      • 1st Marine Artillery Regiment (Phoenix): equipped with K55 SPH / KH179 TH
        • 2nd Marine Artillery Battalion
        • 3rd Marine Artillery Battalion
        • 7th Marine Artillery Battalion
        • 11th Marine Artillery Battalion
      • 1st Tank Battalion: equipped with K1 MBT
      • 1st Assault Amphibian Vehicle Battalion: equipped with KAAV7A1
      • 1st Reconnaissance Battalion
      • 1st Engineer Battalion
      • 1st Signal Battalion
      • 1st Supply Battalion
      • 1st Maintenance Battalion
    • 2nd Marine Division (Blue-Dragon, 제2해병사단)
      • Headquarters Battalion
      • 1st Marine Regiment
        • 11th Marine Battalion
        • 12th Marine Battalion
        • 13th Marine Battalion
      • 5th Marine Regiment
        • 51st Marine Battalion
        • 52nd Marine Battalion
        • 53rd Marine Battalion
      • 8th Marine Regiment
        • 81st Marine Battalion
        • 82nd Marine Battalion
        • 83rd Marine Battalion
      • 2nd Marine Artillery Regiment: equipped with K55 SPH / KH179 TH
        • Marine Artillery Battalion
        • Marine Artillery Battalion
        • Marine Artillery Battalion
        • Marine Artillery Battalion
      • 2nd Tank Battalion: equipped with K1 MBT
      • 2nd Assault Amphibian Vehicle Battalion: equipped with KAAV7A1
      • 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion
      • 2nd Engineer Battalion
      • 2nd Signal Battalion
      • 2nd Supply Battalion
      • 2nd Maintenance Battalion
    • 6th Marine Brigade (Black-Dragon, 제6해병여단) on Baengnyeongdo island
      • Headquarters Battalion
      • 61st Marine Battalion
      • 62nd Marine Battalion
      • 63rd Marine Battalion
      • 65th Marine Battalion
      • 6th Marine Artillery Battalion: equipped with K-9 Thunder / K-10 ARV
      • 6th Reconnaissance Company
      • 6th Engineer Company
    • 9th Marine Brigade (White-Dragon, 제9해병여단) on Jeju island
      • Headquarters Battalion
      • 91st Marine Battalion
      • 92nd Marine Battalion
      • 93rd Marine Battalion
      • Marine Artillery Battalion: equipped with K55 SPH / KH179 TH
      • 9th Engineer Company
    • Yeonpyeongdo Garrison on Yeonpyeongdo island
      • Headquarters Battalion
      • 90th Marine Battalion
      • 9th Marine Artillery Battalion: equipped K-9 Thunder / K-10 ARV
      • 9th Reconnaissance Company
      • U-do Garrison Unit
Republic of Korea Marine Corps Structure



In the South Korean armed forces, ranks fall into one of four categories: commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer, and junior enlisted ("Byeong"), in decreasing order of authority.

  • Commissioned officer

Commissioned officer ranks are subdivided into "Jangseong"-level (general) officers, "Yeonggwan"-level (field-grade) officers, and "Wigwan"-level (company-grade) officers.

NATO code
OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) and student officer
South Korea South Korea
(Marine Corps)
No equivalent Superior General Middle General Junior General Lesser General Superior Commander Middle Commander Junior Commander Superior Lieutenant Middle Lieutenant Junior Lieutenant Unknown
Lieutenant general
Major general
Brigadier general
Lieutenant colonel
First lieutenant
Second lieutenant
NATO code
OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) and student officer
  • Warrant officer

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.

ROKMC rank ROKMC insignia

(Warrant officer)

ROK army Sowi.svg
  • Enlisted

In the South Korean armed forces, personnel with ranks of Hasa through Wonsa are considered non-commissioned officers. There are 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. Ideungbyeong (Korean: 이등병; Hanja: 2等兵), Ildeungbyeong (일등병; 1等兵), and Sangdeungbyeong (상등병; 上等兵) are commonly referred to as Ibyeong, Ilbyeong, and Sangbyeong respectively.

NATO code
OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
South Korea South Korea
(Marine Corps)
ROKMC-OR-9.svg ROKMC-OR-8.svg ROKMC-OR-7.svg ROKMC-OR-6.svg Rokm4.png Rokm3.png Rokm2.png Rokm1.png No equivalent
Sergeant Major Master Sergeant Gunnery Sergeant Staff Sergeant Sergeant Corporal Lance Corporal Private Recruit
NATO code
OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1


KAAV7A1 assault amphibious vehicles of the ROKMC at Cobra Gold 2014 in Thailand

Acquisition plans are tied to Army procurement and focus on increasing tactical mobility, firepower, and command and control.

Until the mid-1990s, the ROKMC fleet of Amphibious Vehicles consisted of 61 Landing Vehicles Tracked (LVT) and 42 AAV7A1. In the early 1980s all Amtracs in ROKMC service were modified to LVTP7A1 standard, but the original variant remained for many more years in service. In an effort to replace the LVTs, the ROKMC undertook a 57 AAV7A1 co-production contract, later increased with an additional 67 AAV7A1 vehicles. Since 1998, South Korea had deployed these 124 new vehicles to enhance its defense against North Korea as well as replacing its current fleet consisting of obsolete vehicles.

The Marine Corps has no aircraft of its own, thus relying on aerial support from the Army and Navy. The service plans to create an aviation brigade with transport and KAI Surion attack helicopters by 2015. To strengthen its intelligence-gathering and surveillance capabilities, the service also is considering deploying unmanned aerial vehicles for reconnaissance.

K-55 self-propelled howitzers of the ROKMC
ROKMC Plasan Sand Cat fires a Spike NLOS in 2014

The current M48A3K Main Battle Tanks are being replaced by around 50 to 60 K1 tanks. To support the force, K-55, K9 self-propelled howitzers and KH-179 towed howitzers are used.

The individual equipment may vary. The old ERDL type camouflage is still in use with training units, although it has been phased out largely by the ROKMC's new digital camouflage. The M-1956 Load-Carrying Equipment, alongside large backpacks (similar to the ALICE backpacks) are still used, though most units now have been issued newer, updated LCE gear or combat vests and often also body-armor/plate-carriers and modern rucksacks with MOLLE webbing. The helmets in use are of the traditional steel-type (similar to the M1 and M80) and Kevlar helmets. Some units, such as Recon units, prefer the use of boonie hats.

In 2013, the ROKMC procured four Plasan Sandcat light protected vehicles with 67 Spike NLOS guided missiles.[18]

By the end of 2017, ROK Marine Corps forces are to deploy the Bigung (flying arrow) guided rocket system near the Northern Limit Line (NLL) along the western sea border to protect the islands of Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong from assault by North Korean hovercraft. The Bigung is a truck-mounted launcher that uses the LOGIR guided rocket, which is 2.75 in (70 mm) in diameter, 1.9 m (6.2 ft) long and weighs 15 kg (33 lb) with a range of 5–8 km (3.1–5.0 mi). Each system is capable of engaging multiple craft, with target acquisition and designation sights (TADS) and an uncooled infrared detector that can independently detect and track multiple targets simultaneously. Compared to coastal artillery, the system is more mobile and versatile, and can fire up to 36-40 rockets at once. The Agency for Defense Development partnered with LIG Nex1 for development and production.[19][20][21][22]


  • Daewoo K1A Carbine/SMG, issued to tank/helicopter/vehicle crews, some elite-units use K1As with aftermarket handguards, rail-systems and sights.
  • Daewoo K2/K2C Standard-issue assault rifle, often used in conjunction with the K201 40mm grenade-launcher, Picatinny RIS issued to all Reconnaissance units, top-mounted Picatinny rails being issued to all active units
  • Daewoo K3 Standard-issue LMG
  • Daewoo K5 Standard handgun, issued to tank/helicopter crews and high-ranking officers
  • Daewoo K7 Silenced SMG in use with some special units
  • Daewoo K14 Sniper rifle in use with Recon units
  • Steyr SSG 69 Sniper rifle used by some elite units
  • Accuracy International AWM Sniper rifle used by some elite units
  • Colt M16A1 Assault rifle, license-produced by (Daewoo) S&T Precision, used by some training units alongside the K2
  • M1 Garand Semi-automatic battle rifle, used by honor guard only

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "대한민국 해병대". Retrieved 2019-02-08.
  2. ^ "대한민국 해병대".
  3. ^ "[토요뒷談] "난 '빨갱이' 잡으려 훈련받은 '인간병기' 였다"". 4 May 2013.
  4. ^ 해병대 사령부의 해체. 중앙일보 (in Korean). 1973-09-17. Retrieved 2019-02-09.
  5. ^ "<'국방개혁 307계획' 뭘 담았나>-2(끝)".
  6. ^ "'서북도서 방위사령부' 창설..."도발하면 주저 없이 응징"". 2011-06-15.
  7. ^ "국방개혁 '307계획'발표... 서북도서방위사령부 6월 창설". 8 March 2011.
  8. ^ "연평도포격 2년..서북도서 전력증강 지연".
  9. ^ "SBS 뉴스 :: 리다이렉트 페이지". 2012-08-25.
  10. ^[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ "심상찮은 서해… 軍 "北 도발 땐 초토화 준비"".
  12. ^ "해병대 인사·예산 해군서 독립된다 - 머니투데이 뉴스".
  13. ^ 헤럴드경제 (14 October 2011). "'해병대 독립'..38년만에 해군에 통폐합 이전으로".
  14. ^ "해병대 '독립' 38년 만에 이뤄지나".
  15. ^ "해병대, 상륙기동헬기 2개 대대 창설된다". 2012-06-04.
  16. ^ "S. Korea forms elite 'Spartan 3000' unit to counter North".
  17. ^ Rothwell, James (21 March 2016). "South Korea unveils elite 'Spartan 3000' force as Kim Jong-un threatens to 'bury our enemies at sea'" – via
  18. ^ South Korean Marine Corps has test fire Spike NLOS anti-tank guided missile from SandCat vehicle -, 8 August 2016
  19. ^ New guided rocket to target N. Korean vessels to be deployed in '16 -, 26 April 2015
  20. ^ S. Korea to deploy guided missile against N.K. hovercraft -, 1 September 2016
  21. ^ S. Korea's Marine Corps to deploy new guided missiles to counter N.K. threat -, 1 January 2017
  22. ^ ROK Marine Corps Showcasing Bigung for the 1st Time -, 18 October 2017

External links[edit]