Archive for the ‘Korean People’s Army’ Category
Media coverage of an emergency military meeting convened by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Friday shows an overview of its major weapons system, giving a rare glimpse of the isolated communist country’s armed forces.
The list shows that North Korea has 40 submarines, 13 landing ships, six minesweepers, 27 support vessels and 1,852 aircrafts [sic], with some of the numbers covered by senior officials.
Military officials in Seoul said the figure is similar to the defense ministry’s estimation of North Korea’s weapons system, though there are some differences.
According to the 2012 defense white paper, the North is estimated to have 70 submarines and midget subs, 260 landing ships, 30 mine sweepers, 30 support vessels, 820 fighter jets, 30 surveillance aircrafts, 330 parachute drop aircrafts and 170 training jets.
While there are some disparities between the list and Seoul’s assessment, the number of midget subs seems to have been excluded from the list disclosed in the photo, military officials said.
As Pyongyang has never disclosed its weapon system in the past, outside watchers speculate that the North Korean military has mistakenly disclosed the confidential information.
“It may have been leaked accidently,” said a senior military official, who asked to remain anonymous. “It could have been unveiled as the North hurriedly reported the emergency meeting.”
Others said the photo may be aimed at stoking tensions by showing that Kim is mulling ways to strike the U.S., considering the operational map that has several lines between the Korean Peninsula and the U.S. Its details were not recognizable in the photo.
The Washington Post has offered some additional data in a follow up article on 4-25-2013:
South Korea says North Korea has more than 13,000 artillery guns, and its long-range batteries are capable of hitting the capital Seoul, a city of more than 10 million people just 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the border.
“North Korea’s greatest advantage is that its artillery could initially deliver a heavy bombardment on the South Korean capital,” Mark Fitzpatrick, a former U.S. State Department official now with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said in an email.
South Korea’s defense minister estimates that 70 percent of North Korean artillery batteries along the border could be “neutralized” in five days if war broke out. But Sohn Yong-woo, a professor at the Graduate School of National Defense Strategy of Hannam University in South Korea, said that would be too late to prevent millions of civilian casualties and avert a disastrous blow to Asia’s fourth-largest economy.
Seoul estimates North Korea has about 200,000 special forces, and Pyongyang has used them before.
In 1968, 31 North Korean commandos stormed Seoul’s presidential Blue House in a failed assassination attempt against then-President Park Chung-hee. That same year, more than 120 North Korean commandos sneaked into eastern South Korea and killed some 20 South Korean civilians, soldiers and police officers.
In 1996, 26 North Korean agents infiltrated South Korea’s northeastern mountains after their submarine broke down, sparking a manhunt that left all but two of them dead, along with 13 South Korean soldiers and civilians.
North Korea has 70 submarines while South Korea has 10, according to Seoul’s Defense Ministry. The most menacing threats from the North’s navy are small submarines that would deposit commando raiders along the South Korean coast, said John Pike, head of the Globalsecurity.org think tank.
North Korea also has 820 warplanes, more than South Korea, though Seoul is backed up by American air power. The South says most of the North’s aircraft are obsolete. North Korea also suffers chronic fuel shortages that have forced its air force to cut sorties, experts say.
“North Korea would not be able to prosecute a full-fledged war for very long,” Fitzpatrick said. “Its biggest problem is that North Korea would quickly lose control of the skies because of the vastly superior (South Korean) and U.S. air forces. The reported number of North Korean aircraft is meaningless, because many of them cannot fly, and North Korean pilots have little training in the air.”
Pyongyang is believed to have enough weaponized plutonium for four to eight nuclear bombs, according to Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear expert with Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation.
But he doubts Pyongyang has mastered the technology to tip a missile with a nuclear warhead. “I don’t believe North Korea has the capacity to attack the United States with nuclear weapons mounted on missiles and won’t for many years,” he said on the website of Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies this month.
orth Korea denies it runs any chemical and biological weapons programs. South Korea claims that Pyongyang has up to 5,000 tons of chemical weapons.
The IISS says that although the figures are “highly speculative,” the North probably does possess chemical and biological arms programs.
“Whatever the actual status of North Korea’s chemical and biological capabilities, the perception that it has, or likely has, chemical and biological weapons contributes to Pyongyang’s interest in creating uncertainties in Washington, Seoul and Tokyo and raises the stakes to deter or intimidate potential enemies,” it said on its website. North Korea is not a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention, but it has acceded to the non-binding Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.
Read the full stories here:
N. Korea’s photo offers glimpse of major weapons
A look at the strengths and weaknesses of North Korea’s military
Washington Post (Associated Press)
According to RFA:
North Korea’s regime is distributing special monthly payments in U.S. currency via a cash card system to high-ranking military officers in a bid to maintain loyalty, according to a source inside the country.
The payments can be spent at stores and restaurants equipped with card readers which accept foreign currency, the source told RFA’s Korean Service Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Since last year, North Korean generals in the military have been receiving a U.S. dollar cash cards every month,” said the source, who claims to have wide knowledge of the North Korean military.
“This is Kim Jong Un’s new instruction to guarantee a good lifestyle for the generals,” he said, referring to the country’s young “Supreme Leader” who took power after his father Kim Jong Il’s death in December 2011.
According to the source, four-star generals in the North Korean military receive around U.S. $1,200 each month on their cards, while three-star generals get U.S. $1,000 and two-star generals make U.S. $700. These payments are on top of their monthly salaries.
The special payments drawn by the generals dwarf the average government worker’s monthly salary of about 2,000 to 6,000 won (U.S. $0.70 to $2 based on prevailing market rates).
“The amount of cash on the card depends on the person’s level in the military,” the source said.
“When you have spent all of the cash, the card gets recharged again the following month. I’m not sure whether the provider is ‘Office 39’ of the Workers’ Party or the General Logistics Bureau.”
Office 39 of the ruling Workers Party is believed to maintain a foreign currency slush fund, while the General Logistics Bureau controls logistics, support, and procurement activities for the massive North Korean military.
The source said that recipients of the cash card are not limited to generals, but also include other high-level officers from a unit that directs infiltration activities by North Korean military agents in South Korea and another unit that is in charge of “electronic combat” in the General Reconnaissance Bureau.
“A colonel in the General Reconnaissance Bureau is able to spend up to U.S. $400 a month on the card,” the source said.
“A high-ranking military officer who is not a general can receive U.S. currency on a card if he is in charge of an important duty.”
There are a number of stores and restaurants where recipients can spend their cash in the capital Pyongyang, the source said.
Generals can also use their cards at guesthouses in seaside resort cities like Cheongjin in North Hamgyong province and Hamheung in South Hamgyong province, which only cater to officers of their rank.
For their convenience, card readers have been set up at places where foreign currency is traded, he said.
There are a number of reasons why this makes a particularly effective control tool. To begin with, the military senior staff are dependent on the party to receive their elite consumer goods. Additionally, these money balances cannot be directly spent in the markets or easily transferred to third parties. Finally, in theory, all purchases can be audited. FECs (FOreign Excahnge Certificates) on speed.
Read the full story here:
North Korean Generals Get Cash Cards for Loyalty
“KPA Land-based MR-104 DRUM TILT Radar,” by Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.
A December 2010 DPRK propaganda video of a Korean People’s Army (North Korean Army) combined arms exercise contained a scene depicting a land-based variant of the former Soviet MR-104 drum tilt naval target acquisition and fire control radar. This is the first readily available open source image of the land-based variant.
“KPA 17th Tank Brigade (Tank Division, Mechanized Brigade, Mechanized Division), Part II,” by Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.
While much is now known concerning U.S. and U.N. units, organizations and operations during the Fatherland Liberation War (i.e., Korean War) very little reliable and detailed information is available concerning those of the Korean People’s Army (North Korean Army). Ths is especially true for its armored forces, which played a brief but important role during the first year of the conflict. This paper represents an initial e ffort to recount the organization and operations of one of the KPA’s first armored units—the 17th Tank Brigade.
“KPA Wartime Propaganda Leaflet”
Michael Webster, who contributed 4 images of the Han-gang bridges from his collection to the March 2011 (Vol. 2, No. 3) issue of KPA Journal, has provided a KPA propaganda leaflet from his Korean War collection.
“Unusual Visitor to Wonsan Airbase,” by Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.
On November 1, 2012 DigitalGlobe acquired an image of the Wŏnsan-si area, including the Korean People’s Air Force (North Korean Air Force) Wŏnsan Airbase. Aside from capturing the normal collection of MiG-17/-19s and MiG-21s stationed at the airbase the image also captured an An-24 coke taxiing for takeoff at the northern end of the main runway.
According to the Daily NK:
On the 22nd, North Korea handed down a ‘farming support battle mass mobilization order’ in the name of the Supreme Command of the Chosun People’s Army. The order commands the military to take the lead in the battle to increase food production.
At the same time, Rodong Shinmun ramped up the propaganda side on the 21st, publishing a couple of articles on agricultural topics including one about Yeokpyeong Cooperative Farm in Huicheon, Jagang Province entitled, ‘There Is Nothing You Cannot Do as Long as You Are Determined’.
However, sources in North Hamkyung Province confirm that neither the propaganda nor the orders from above reflect the difficult reality on the ground during the annual ‘spring hardship period’ which last until the early part of May. In effect, the North Korean authorities are calling for mass mobilization to secure the nation’s food supplies without ensuring food for those being mobilized.
According to one, “The spinach which we prepared for soup is already gone. There are now ‘side dish support teams’ out looking for wild plants and herbs for side dishes.”
To try and solve this problem in situ, anyone who is able to offer 50kg of rice or equivalent is handed a month of vacation time during the farm support period. If rations amount to 600g per day then a single worker will go through 24kg of rice or corn over the course of the 40-day mobilization period; thus, giving 50kg means taking responsibility for feeding two other people, and this is enough to get an exemption from labor for oneself.
However, when those able to give food and those out collecting food from the mountain-sides are combined, it means half the people who are meant to be supporting the farming work are not doing so directly. Not only that; according to the source, “The people left behind on the farms are in a lifeless state, so it’s pretty hard to get any work done.” They are very cynical, too, reportedly pointing out that they will gain strength by eating corn, not by yelling slogans.
Given that there are also cases of support workers stealing from nearby farmhouses, local people are said to be waiting for the day when the support workers will be allowed to leave.
Official controls have also been heightened for the support period. Weddings, funeral and ancestral rites are prohibited, and there is no travel permit issuance going on either. In addition, only immediate family members of deceased persons may move around locally.
Read the full story here:
50kg the Only Relief from Hardship Period
Choi Song Min
On April 27th, KCNA reported that Kim Jong-un “guided general tactical exercises of KPA Combined Unit 655 held on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the KPA.” NK Leadership Watch wrote about the demonstration here. Just by chance, I recognized the facility and was able to pinpoint it on Google Earth. This is rarely so easy.
Pictured above, the KPA observation facility (Google Earth: 38.948016°, 125.916006°) in Sadong-guyok (사동구역).
The building sits on top of a small mountain, and according to the Google Earth ruler, it is approximately 50m x 32m (at its widest). The oldest satellite image available of the facility (on Google Earth) dates to 2003-12-25. There are several support facilities located nearby, but I do not have any specific information on them.
Here is a layout of the facility in relation to the target area (Google Earth):
According to the Google Earth ruler, the observation facility is approximately 3km from the most distant portion of the test grounds.
Perhaps the strangest aspect of this test is that an elite residential compound lies just on the other side of the mountains from the artillery testing area (about 1km away)! Who would have ever thought they would detonate explosives and projectiles so close to one of these compounds? Perhaps the presence of the elite residential compound explains why this observation facility has not been used for as long as I can remember (which admittedly is not a long time ago).
I have located several KPA demonstration areas on Google Earth and will include them in the next version of North Korea Uncovered, hopefully out in the next couple of months.
Aidan Foster-Carter wrties in the Asia Times:
The first quarter of 2012 is almost over. Where did it go, so fast? And for those parts of the world where the calendar is marked by four distinct seasons – which doesn’t apply to much of Asia, but very much includes the Korean peninsula – spring has begun to arrive. Welcome warmth and relief, after the rigors of chilly winter: an especially harsh one in North Korea.
Topics include: M-1979/M-1989 170 mm Self-propelled Guns (Part II) and “Yu Kyong-su, The Father of KPA Armor Forces.
Note: The satellite imagery used in this journal issue can be found on Google Earth here: 39.750290°, 124.820099°
According to the Daily NK:
A source within North Korea has revealed to Daily NK that political education classes for the Chosun People’s Army have been extended from 12 to 19 hours a week in what the source sees as an effort to increase unity within the military.
The order to extend ideological instruction apparently came from the General Political Bureau of the Ministry of Peoples’ Armed Forces in early September. Following as it did the late Colonel Muammar Qadhafi’s escape from the Libyan capital Tripoli in the middle of August, this points to the possibility that the beginning of the Libyan leader’s end had a part to play in the nervy North Korean regime’s decision.
The source claims that all military units were handed new schedules for political education at that time, stating, “Every week commissioned officers get extra materials to conduct classes and enlisted soldiers have had their basic hours extended from 12 to 19.”
In reality this means that the classes, which used to be for two hours every day from Monday to Saturday, have now been extended to three hours, with the 30 minutes each morning previously allotted for reading and interpreting party policy and the works of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il extended to 40 minutes.
Commanding officers have had their own classes covering the correct method of instructing subordinates bumped up from three or four times a month to twice a week. These classes are to help them become acquainted with the guidance materials sent down from Pyongyang.
So-called ‘political commissars’ attached to companies follow the guidelines of the General Political Bureau in carrying out political education. Given their license to assess the ‘appropriateness’ of company commanders, in many ways they occupy a role more influential than that of commanders themselves.
The source claims that Special Forces were the guinea pigs for the new policy, with Marine Corps, specialist security forces and guidance department troops getting the first taste of the new orders.
The ideological training of ordinary soldiers is said to involve interpretation of Rodong Shinmun editorials, which serve as the main de facto public mouthpiece for official opinion, along with ideological ‘debate’ sessions.
“At the end of October we began studying a piece from the Rodong Shinmun called ‘We are all Descendants of Kim Il Sung’, and have been had debate sessions regarding another article which was about how to make our lives even better than they already are,” the source explained.
“A stationed officer from the Political Bureau sits in on the debate sessions and plays the role of a facilitator, making sure everything goes smoothly. They are drumming up excitement within these sessions by giving a day’s holiday to the best participants,” said the source.
Interestingly, meanwhile, the source added that the state is still choosing not to report on the death of Gaddafi or other Libya news, while “Most soldiers think the ramping up of political studies is some sort of preparation for winter training.”
Every year North Korea holds winter training from December 1 until June. On top of ideological education, training also involves marching, shooting, martial arts, war strategy and other drills.
Read the full story here:
More Ideology for the Troops!
Lee Seok Young
Pictured above (Google Earth): The DPRK’s underground air force base under construction near Wonsan.
According to Strategy Page (2011-10-19):
South Korea recently revealed that North Korea had gone looking for someone to sell them new combat aircraft, and had been turned down by China and Russia. South Korean diplomats were pleased to find this out, and South Korean Air Force officers were not surprised that the North Koreans were desperate to upgrade their air force.
This was it had earlier been revealed that in late 2010, after North Korea artillery fired on South Korea (Yeonpyeong Island), North Korea quickly made preparations for war. These preparations were apparently ordered without much warning. So too, apparently, was the attack on Yeonpyeong Island.
What the South Korean intel analysts were particularly amazed by was the poor performance of the North Korean air force during this hasty mobilization. It was known that North Korean pilots had been getting less and less flying time in the past decade, but when ordered into the air on a large scale for this hasty mobilization, the results were amazingly bad. The flying skills of combat pilots were particularly unimpressive, as was the performance of many aircraft (indicating poor maintenance). There were several crashes, and many near misses in the air, and a general sense of confusion among the North Korean Air Force commanders and troops.
While North Korea was apparently trying to impress, and intimidate, South Korea with this display of aerial might, the impact was just the opposite. With the exception of ten MiG-29s, the North Korean air force consists of several hundred Cold War era Russian and Chinese warplanes. The Chinese aircraft are knockoffs of older Russian designs, and most of the North Korean fleet consists of aircraft designs that were getting old in the 1970s. The North Korean Air Force training exercise merely confirmed what many South Korean and American intelligence analysts already suspected; that the North Korean Air Force could barely fly, and hardly fight.
Neither China nor Russia wants to encourage North Korea to undertake any more such misadventures; thus the refusal to provide new aircraft. Moreover, North Korea is difficult to do business with, often refusing to pay, or delaying payment for a long time. North Korea is not a good customer, and even China and Russia, who supported the north for over half a century, are fed up with North Korea’s increasingly bizarre behavior.
Kim Jong-il visited an aircraft factory in Russia on his last visit there. See a satellite image of that factory here. Some speculated he was trying to make a deal for the procurement of Russian fighter jets.