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Republic of Korea Army

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Republic of Korea Army
대한민국 육군
Daehanminguk Yuk-gun
Seal of the Republic of Korea Army
Founded5 September 1948
(75 years, 9 months)
Country South Korea
RoleLand warfare
Size365,000 personnel (2022)[1]
Part of Republic of Korea Armed Forces
Garrison/HQGyeryong, South Chungcheong, South Korea
Nickname(s)"ROK Army", "ROKA", "South Korean Army"
Motto(s)강한친구 대한민국 육군
("A Strong Friend, Republic of Korea Army")
("Army Anthem")
Mascot(s)호국이 (Hogugi)
WebsiteOfficial website
President Yoon Suk Yeol
Minister of National Defense Shin Won-sik
Chief of Staff of the Army General Park An-su

The Republic of Korea Army (ROKA; Korean대한민국 육군; Hanja大韓民國陸軍; RRDaehanminguk Yukgun), also known as the ROK Army or South Korean Army, is the army of South Korea, responsible for ground-based warfare. It is the largest of the military branches of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces with 365,000 members as of 2022. This size is maintained through conscription: All able-bodied South Korean males must complete military service (18 months for the army, auxiliary police, and marines, 20 months for the navy and conscripted firefighters, 21 months for the air force and social service, and 36 months for alternative service) between the ages of 18 and 35.[2]


Soldiers of the Imperial Korean Army in 1898
US Army drawing showing ROKA soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War, 1966
ROKA soldiers with a 57 mm anti-tank gun during the Korean War, 1950

The Republic of Korea Army traces its lineage back to the Gwangmu Reform, when the Pyŏlgigun was established by Emperor Gojong in 1881.

The 1st of every October is celebrated in South Korea as Armed Forces Day. It commemorates the day during the Korean War when 3rd Infantry Division of the ROK Army first crossed the 38th Parallel, thus leading the UN coalition into North Korean territory for the first time.

The National Security Guard of South Korea was originally formed out of the ROK Army. This organization was created during the United States-led occupation period from 1945 to 1948. The National Security Guard was initially a reserve unit of the National Police. In addition, some Nationalist Chinese and former soldiers of the Manchukuo Imperial Army also contributed to the force. The National Defense Force was established on January 15, 1946, replacing the United States lead constabulary from 1945.

The outbreak of the Korean War caught the ROK forces unprepared, requiring the United Nations to intervene with US-led forces. The South Korean military rapidly developed during the Korean War, suffering enormous casualties and loss of equipment. As the Soviets had armed North Korea, the United States armed and trained the South Korean military throughout the Korean War.

Current operational status[edit]

The Republic of Korea Army is structured to operate in both the mountainous terrain native to the Korean Peninsula (70% mountainous[3]) and in North Korea with its 950,000 strong Korean People's Army Ground Force, two-thirds of which is permanently garrisoned in the frontline near the DMZ. The current administration has initiated a program over the next two decades to design a purely domestic means of self-defense, whereby South Korea would be able to fully counter a North Korean attack.

The ROK Army was formerly organized into 3 armies: the First Army (FROKA), the Third Army (TROKA), and the Second Operational Command, each with its own headquarters, corps, and divisions. The Third Army was responsible for the defense of the capital as well as the western section of the DMZ. The First Army was responsible for the defense of the eastern section of the DMZ whereas the Second Operational Command formed the rearguard.

Under a restructuring plan aimed at reducing redundancy, the Second ROK Army was converted into the Second Operations Command in 2007, and the First and Third ROK Armies were merged as the Ground Operations Command in 2019.


The army consists of 365,000 troops, approximately 2,200 tanks, 3,100 armored fighting vehicles, 5,600 artillery pieces, 60 guided missile systems, and 620 helicopters as of 2022. Main battle tank types include: 400 M48 Patton series and its upgrades such as the M48A3K, M48A5, and M48A5K, 33 Soviet T-80U and 2 T-80UK (given by Russia to pay off debt), as well as 1,511 K1A1 and K1 tanks, which bear a 120mm smoothbore gun and are of local manufacture. The future replacement for the K1 and K1A1 MBTs has been named the K2 Black Panther (흑표;黑豹 Heukpyo), which will be fitted with a 1500hp MTU-based engine, 55-caliber 120mm main gun with autoloader. The new tank will also feature radar equipment as well as all-bearing laser detection and defense systems, anti-missile active protection, and heavy reactive armor and sensor package comparable to the American M1A2 Abrams and the German Leopard 2A6. The ROK Army is planning to field approximately 443 Black Panthers.

In addition, the Republic of Korea manufactures the K-9 howitzer which has been exported to Turkey as the T-155 howitzer as well as the ZMA series TIFV's which saw action in UN peacekeeping operations (PKO) as part of the Malaysian peacekeeping forces. A variation of the K200, the KAFVs can be retrofitted to bear a 90mm cannon, 40 mm grenade turret, M230-1 Chaingun Turret, or MK-30 Chaingun Turret. A replacement for the K200 series IFVs are currently being tested, designated as the K21 KNIFV (Korea Next Generation Infantry Fighting Vehicle), which will have various capabilities for both land and naval warfare. The initial production is set for 2008, with the ROK Army planning to field approximately 600 units.

The K21 KNIFV's chassis will be constructed entirely out of fiberglass, reducing the vehicle's load and enabling it to travel at higher speeds without bulky and powerful engines. When constructed, the NIFV will be lighter than other IFVs, including the American Bradley series and Russian BMP series, increasing both speed and payload.

The ROK Army also fields the mobile K-SAM "Pegasus"(천마/天馬; Cheonma), fitted with 8 missiles that fly at maximum speeds of Mach 2.6, and the K-30 "Biho" series, which features a 30mm twin gun system for anti-aerial fire support.

Besides having vehicles and equipment of their own design as well as American models, the ROK Army also possesses inventories of Russian-built AFVs, including BMP-3 IFVs and T-80U MBTs, given by the Russian government to pay off the financial debt owed to South Korea. Other notable foreign equipment in service with the ROK Army includes the Mistral MANPADS.

In 2015, it was reported by South Korean lawmakers that more than 58,000 out of 100,549 South Korean soldiers at the Korean Demilitarized Zone lacked body armor capable of protection from North Korean firearms. The possession of only 42,030 body armor sets leaves 58,519 soldiers without body armor, and only 3,147 of the 42,030 sets are capable of protection from the AK-74, the standard assault rifle of the Korean People's Army.[4]

A new infantry rifle, the Daewoo K11, entered service in 2010. The overall concept of this weapon is more advanced to the American OICW, however its production has been halted and weapon discontinued in 2020 due to excessive issues involving its targeting component and the quality of ammunition, to focus on fixing the issues which have been quickly resolved.[5] Inspection of military equipment in June 2021 found that 26% of components involving the Warrior Platform program for modernization of South Korean infantry is defective.[6]


On 1 December 2020, all subordinate regiments of each divisions in the Republic of Korea Army reorganized into brigades.[7]

As of July 2023, Republic of Korea Army has 2 Field armies, 6 Corps, 34 Divisions.


In officer ranks, "So" () equals lower; "Jung" () equals medium; "Dae" () equals higher. "Jun" () equals equivalent, used for warrant officer and 1 star generals to ensure that they are regarded as officers/generals, although these ranks are lower than the same grade with "So" rank. "Wo" () equals principal, only used for Won-Su, General of the Army. Each of these is coupled with one of the following: "wi" () equals company grade, "ryung" () equals field grade, and "jang" () equals general.

NCO rank is similar to officer. "Ha" () equals lower; "Jung" () equals medium; "Sang" () equals higher; "Won" () equals principal, because this title is named after Won-Su, to ensure that this rank is higher than Sang-sa. Each of these is coupled with "Sa" () equals sergeant, although actual 'sergeant' rank is "Byeong-jang".

This system is due to the Hanja or Sino-Korean origin of the names.[8][failed verification]

Commissioned officer ranks
Rank group General officer Field officer Junior officer
Combat uniform Marshal of the RoK Superior general Middle general Junior general Lesser general Superior commander Middle commander Junior commander Superior lieutenant Middle lieutenant Junior lieutenant
 Republic of Korea Army[9]
Marshal of the RoK Superior general Middle general Junior general Lesser general Superior commander Middle commander Junior commander Superior lieutenant Middle lieutenant Junior lieutenant
Warrant officer ranks
Rank group Warrant officer
Combat uniform
 Republic of Korea Army[9]
Other ranks
Rank group Non-commissioned officer Enlisted
Combat uniform Sergeant Major Master Sergeant Sergeant 1st Class Staff Sergeant Sergeant Corporal Private 1st Class Private
 Republic of Korea Army[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "2022 Defence White Paper" (PDF). December 2022. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2023-02-16. Retrieved 2023-02-16.
  2. ^ Klingner, Bruce. "South Korea: Taking the Right Steps to Defense Reform". The Heritage Foundation.
  3. ^ "Physical Setting of Korea". nationalatlas.ngii.go.kr. Retrieved 2022-09-08.
  4. ^ JH Ahn (17 September 2015). "Defenseless: Lawmaker, experts decry South Korean body armor shortage". NK News. Archived from the original on Nov 4, 2016.
  5. ^ Vining, Miles (23 January 2020). "South Korea pulls the plug on K11 weapon". Shephard. Archived from the original on Jan 15, 2024.
  6. ^ "Pound-foolish procurement robs super soldiers of superpower". Korea JoongAng Daily. 6 June 2021. Archived from the original on Oct 31, 2023.
  7. ^ 육군 ‘연대를 여단으로’ 전투 기동력 높였다
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-02-26. Retrieved 2009-01-31.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ a b c "Army Insignia". army.mil.kr. Republic of Korea Army. Retrieved 2 June 2021.

External links[edit]