Archive for the ‘Korean People’s Army’ Category

Ideology classes being extended for KPA

Monday, November 7th, 2011

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!
Daily NK
Lee Seok Young


DPRK air force short on capital

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

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.


DPRK expands arsenal over last decade

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

Pictured above (Google Earth): 1.18 Factory (January 18 Factory), which I am told manufactures tanks

According to Yonhap:

According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), North Korea added about 300 tanks and 1,200 artillery guns over the past decade. The report comparing the armed forces of the two Koreas was submitted to the National Assembly ahead of the annual parliamentary inspection.

The report claimed that over the same period, the number of North Korean troops went up from 1.17 million to 1.19 million. The JCS noted that financial difficulties haven’t prevented the North from bolstering its military.

On the other hand, North Korea slashed the number of its vessels from about 900 to 740, and its submarines from about 90 to 70. There were 870 fighter jets in the North in 2000, but 820 last year.

You can read the full article here.


PRC military exports to DPRK

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

The Choson Ilbo posts a video of dozens of military vehicles being shipped to the DPRK:

Left: Click image above to see video. Right: Dandong Customs House

According to the article:

Some 3,000 to 4,000 Chinese-made military trucks and jeeps entered North Korea last month, it was confirmed Monday. According to video clips obtained by the Chosun Ilbo, over 100 military trucks and jeeps made in China went to North Korea everyday last month after going through customs in Dandong.

There were eight video clips of varying lengths ranging from two minutes to 16 minutes. The footage shows Chinese-produced military vehicles standing in the 10,000 sq.m parking lot of the Dandong customs office waiting to be cleared along with other civilian cars, and two-story trailers loaded with military vehicles waiting on the side road to enter the customs office. A local source in Dandong said, “Normally, all Chinese-made vehicles going into North Korea were civilian, but in July, a massive number of military cars went to North Korea.”

A senior source in North Korea said that these cars were gifts to military officers by North Korea’s heir apparent Kim Jong-un in celebration of “Victory Day,” or the day the armistice in the Korean War was signed on July 27. “North Korean military vehicles produced in the 1970s and the 80s are too old to carry out drills, and many soldiers were dissatisfied. In order to buy the loyalty of the military and show what he can do, Kim Jong-un replaced the old vehicles thanks to the assistance of China,” the source added.

Jeeps were given to officers to be used to conduct operations, and the trucks were given to soldiers.

Analysis of the footage suggests the trucks were 6-ton trucks made by FAW Car Limited Company. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visited the headquarters of this firm in Changchun, Jilin, during his visit to China in May. The military jeeps were manufactured by Beijing Automobile Works with engine capacity of 2,200 cc and 100 horsepower. BAW, which specializes in SUVs, trucks and military vehicles, is a subsidiary of Beijing Automotive Group, a partner of Hyundai Motor.

Dump trucks, large buses, sedans, oil trucks, agricultural machines and heavy machinery were also spotted in the video going into North Korea. In the windscreen, the name of the recipients is written. One is Korea Taesong Trading Company, a trading company under the Workers Party that manages Kim Jong-il’s slush funds. It was blacklisted by the U.S. as part of its economic sanctions against the North.

In one video clip, tourist buses pack one side of the parking lot. Another clip shows a queue of several dozens of LNG trucks. A South Korean government official commented, “North Korea depends on China for almost entire amount of fossil fuel it needs.”


KPA Journal Vol.2, No. 5

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Pictured Above: The Taesung Machine Factory featured in the most recent issue of KPA Journal.

I have been pretty busy this week, but I wanted to put up a quick link to the latest issue of KPA Journal. This issue focuses on the Tae-sung Machine Factory. The issues also contains addendums, corrections and other publications of interest.

Have a good weekend!


Kim Jong il’s visit to KPA Unit 963

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Pictured above (Google Earth): KPA Unit 963 (Escort Bureau/Guard Command) in Pyongyang.  See in Google Maps here.

On July 14th, KCNA reported that Kim Jong-il visited the command of KPA Unit 963.   According to the Daily NK:

Kim Jong Il has conducted an onsite inspection at No. 963 Base of the Chosun People’s Army, Chosun Central News Agency reported this morning. No. 963 Base is operated by Escort Command, the unit charged with overseeing the safety of the Kim family.

Taking in the base’s revolutionary history museum, Kim is said to have proclaimed, “This army base repelled the united imperialist factions including America, carrying out the noble mission and duty of the Fatherland Liberation War. The personnel from this base are keeping alive this proud tradition, and will surely be known in future too for the splendor of protecting the fatherland with one hundred wins in one hundred battles.”

Kim also expressed his great satisfaction at the work of the officers in command of the base, commending their readiness to carry out their duty on the battlefield with superior strategic and command abilities.

The report also went on to explain, “This base has inherited the bright tradition of defending the Suryeong with their lives pioneered in the forests of Mt. Baekdu and our revolutionary chronicles, has defended the Party and Suryeong and in the process turned out dozens of distinguished individuals, including 72 heroes of labor and 28 heroes of the Republic.

Kim was accompanied on the inspection by son Kim Jong Eun, Jang Sung Taek and another member of the Party Central Military Commission, Kim Kyung Ok.

According to Joseph Bermudez (The Armed Forces of North Korea):

The State Security Department and the Guard Command are the agencies most directly responsible for the security of Kim Chong-il and only he is reportedly exempt from their scrutiny. (p 199)

This compound recently acquired a new facility (probably the focus of the visit):

Additional information:
1. Here, here, and here is some additional information on the Escort Bureau (Guard Command).

2. Kim Jong-il’s military related visits this year: On February 2 Kim Jong-il visited KPA Unit 6556 and the Jongsong Combined Medical Institute of the Korean People’s ArmyOn March 16th he visited a factory under KPA Navy Unit 597. On May 4th he visited an undisclosed new KPA Sports Complex (This could possibly be at Kim Jong-il Political Military University which recently received a similar new facility).  Kim Jong-il also attended KPA cultural events on February 2, February 9, March 13, April 15, April 22, June 10, July 1, and July 2.

These are not his only military-related public appearances since he has also visited several factories suspected of being dual-use complexes, including the Namhung Youth Chemical Complex, Kanggye General Tractor Plant, Hungnam Fertilizer Complex, and the January 18 General Machinery Plant.


What military unit is most desired by DPRK soldiers?

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

According to the Daily NK:

Which military unit is the most popular for North Korean soldiers about to serve their ten-year term in the army?

In the end, the answer is undoubtedly the Escort Bureau.

Although all North Korean middle school students submit an application, in which they write which unit they want to serve in to their city or county’s Military Mobilization Department before they graduate, the Escort Bureau is literally the only corps they “want.” Placement in the bureau, however, depends entirely on the applicant’s family background.

Only those students who have passed the military physical exam and have a good family background are allowed to participate in the two-month educational training sessions that are offered when students graduate from middle school around the age of seventeen. These sessions are offered to recruits at the training center of each unit or division and differ according to the branch of the military that the recruit will be serving in. However, the branches have in common the fact that if a recruit comes from a family of good political or economic standing or has a strong family background, he will be able to serve in a favorable unit.

Once soldiers serve in the Escort Bureau, they can live in Pyongyang and, if lucky, be allowed to remain in the capital after their discharge from the military. Additionally, they may receive a recommendation for college due to Kim Jong Il’s especial consideration for discharged soldiers from the Escort Bureau.

In addition, since it is a well-known fact that discharged soldiers from the Escort Bureau have good family backgrounds in politics and the economy, they become sought after by women as desirable bridegrooms.

The military attire of the Escort Bureau, including its hat, uniform, shoes, and belt, for even regular privates are furthermore special on a level similar to that of generals’ attire.

When they are discharged from the army, these soldiers must pledge not to expose what they have seen, listened to, and felt to the rest of society.

Lee Young Kuk recalls the time when he was being discharged from the army in his book I Was Kim Jong Il’s Bodyguard (Zeitgeist 2004), “When bodyguards are discharged from the army, they have to attend a debriefing lecture and sign a written pledge with their thumb, avowing that they will never disclose the secrets they know about Kim Jong Il .”

The border guard units dispatched to Shinuiju, North Hamkyung Province, Yangkang, North Hamkyung Provinces, and other border areas have also emerged recently as units popular with incoming recruits. The head officers of the border guard even come directly to the Military Mobilization Department of each area to select recruits for themselves.

Parents tend to do their best to have their children serve in border guard units through the use of human networking as well as bribes. The reason for this is that soldiers in border guard units are able to earn enough money to afford a wedding after their discharge from the military through the taking of bribes from traders and smugglers.

Choi Cheol Ho, who served in a border unit stationed in Manpo, Jagang Province, and defected in 2007, stated that, “Parents try to send their children to border units even if it means they must give up all of their property because they believe that the cost will be worth it for their children after just three years in the border unit.”

He added that he also offered a substantial bribe in order to enter the unit.

The next most popular areas of the military are the air force and navy. In order to serve in both the air force and navy, applicants must have a good family background and be in good health. If any of their relatives have crossed over to South Korea, they are automatically disqualified from serving in the air force and navy.

On the other hand, if a suspected criminal has relatives serving in air force or navy, they may be able to escape punishment.

Kim Dong Il, who defected to the South from Hamheung, South Hamkyung Province, in 2009, testified to this situation, “A friend of mine, Cheol Nam, went through a preliminary trial on suspicion of selling ‘Bingdu’ (methamphetamines) and was sentenced to a few months in a labor-training camp, which is like a detention center, while his accomplice was sentenced to three years in a reeducation camp, which is tantamount to being sentenced to time in a regular prison in most countries. The reason for the leniency Cheol Nam was shown was that his brother was a pilot in the air force.”

Some applicants attempt to serve in the Civilian Affairs Administrative Police Unit, which is located in the Panmunjom area and along the border with South Korea, out of curiosity.

The Civilian Affairs Administrative Police Unit and light infantry are special branches, so life for these soldiers is tough. However, soldiers discharged from these units are often able to receive a recommendation to enter a university after their military service.

“While I was serving in the Civilian Affairs Administrative Police Unit, I was able to listen to South Korean broadcasts. Therefore, we had to sit through ideology lectures every day,” Park Cheol, a defector who came to South Korea in 2009, recalled about his military service.

He added, “After they discharge soldiers from these units, the authorities send them to local universities. If they want to enter a university in Pyongyang, their family background must be superior to that of others. Entering even a regular university is quite advantageous because most discharged soldiers are sent to mines or other rural areas.”

Those who are rich but have been deprived of the chance to send their children to popular and advantageous military units because cadres’ children have taken all of the spots in these units tend to choose a different route, which is to have their children enter an infantry unit in Pyongyang. To achieve this, they need to offer bribes to the Military Mobilization Department. Units in Pyongyang have better food provisions than those in the provinces, and parents also have the chance to see the capital when they visit their children.

Read the full story here:
What Military Unit Is Most Sought After by North Korean Soldiers?
Daily NK
Lee Seok Young


DPRK expanding submarine force

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011


Pictured Above: Pipagot Naval Base  (Google Earth: 38°35’40.17″N, 124°58’38.49″E)

UPDATE (3/28/2011): According to Strategy Page:

North Korea has apparently been building an improved version of its Song (Shark) class mini-sub. The 250 ton Sang is actually a coastal sub modified for special operations. The original design is a 34 meter (105 feet) long boat with a snorkel and a top submerged speed of 17 kilometers an hour (or 13 kilometers an hour when at periscope depth using the snorkel to run the diesel engines). Top surface speed is 13 kilometers an hour. Max diving depth is 150 meters (465 feet) and the boat is designed to rest on the ocean bottom (useful when trying to avoid enemy search). There is a crew of 15, plus either six scuba swimmer commandos, or a dozen men who can go ashore in an inflatable boat. Some Songs have two or four torpedo tubes. Max endurance is about eight days. The new model is 39 meters (121 feet) long and is believed to have a max submerged speed of 27 kilometers an hour. Over 40 Songs have been built so far, and one was captured by South Korea when it ran aground in 1996. At least half a dozen are of the new model.

North Korea has a fleet of over 80 mini-subs, plus about 24 older Russian type conventional boats (based on late-World War II German designs, as adapted for Russian service as the Whiskey and Romeo class). China helped North Korea set up its own submarine building operation, which included building some of the large Romeo class subs. North Korea got the idea for minisubs from Russia, which has had them for decades. North Korea has developed several mini-sub designs, most of them available to anyone with the cash to pay.

The most popular mini-sub is the M100D, a 76 ton, 19 meter (58 foot) long boat that has a crew of four and can carry eight divers and their equipment. The North Koreans got the idea for the M100D when they bought the plans for a 25 ton Yugoslav mini-sub in the 1980s. Only four were built, apparently as experiments to develop a larger North Korean design. There are to be over 30 M100Ds, and they can be fitted with two torpedoes that are carried externally, but fired from inside the sub.

North Korea is believed to have fitted some of the Songs and M100Ds with acoustic tiles, to make them more difficult to detect by sonar. This technology was popular with the Russians, and that’s where the North Koreans were believed to have got the technology.

The most novel design is a submersible speedboat. This 13 meter (40 foot) boat looks like a speedboat, displaces ten tons and can carry up to eight people. It only submerges to a depth of about 3.2 meters (ten feet). Using a snorkel apparatus (a pipe type device to bring in air and expel diesel engine fumes), the boat can move underwater. In 1998, a South Korean destroyer sank one of these. A follow-on class displaced only five tons, and could carry six people (including one or two to run the boat). At least eight of these were believed built.

The use of a North Korea midget sub to sink a South Korean corvette in March, 2010, forced the United States, and South Korea, to seriously confront the problems involved in finding these small subs in coastal waters. This is a difficult task, because the target is small, silent (moving using battery power) and in a complex underwater landscape, that makes sonar less effective.

There are some potential solutions. After the Cold War ended in 1991, the U.S. recognized that these coastal operations would become more common. So, in the 1990s, the U.S. developed the Advanced Deployable System (ADS) for detecting non-nuclear submarines in coastal waters. The ADS is portable, and can quickly be flown to where it is needed. ADS is believed to be in South Korea. ADS basically adapts the popular Cold War SOSUS system (many powerful listening devices surrounding the major oceans, and analyzing the noises to locate submarines) developed by the United States.

ADS consists of battery powered passive (they just listen) sensors that are battery powered and deployed by ship along the sea bottom in coastal waters. A fiber optic cable goes from the sensors (which look like a thick cable) back to shore, where a trailer containing computers and other electronics, and the ADS operators, runs the system. ADS has done well in tests, but it has never faced the North Korean mini-subs.

ORIGINAL POST (3/22/2011): According to the Choson Ilbo:

North Korea is building up its submarine force, deploying new Shark-class K-300 submarines with better performance, a longer body and higher underwater speed than the old model which infiltrated South Korean waters in 1996.

A South Korean government official said Sunday, “We’ve confirmed U.S. satellite images and other intelligence that the North has been building and deploying new Shark-class submarines for a few years now.

They’re about 5 m longer than the old 34 m-long model and capable of traveling submerged more than 10 km/h faster.”

The North has about 70 submarines and submersibles. The Shark class, which accounts for about 40 of them, is its main submarine force.

Below are additional stories about the DPRK’s submarine fleet and navy:

Still Waters Run Deep

DPRK’s midget subs torpedo equipped

DPRK naval bases near Baengnyong Island

KPN submarine bases in the East Sea

North Korea supplied submarines to Iran

Bermudez on the North Korean Navy

NKeconWatch Military resources page


DPRK attempts to block ROK GPS signals

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

UPDATE 3 (4/1/2011): The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is considering measures against North Korea after the reclusive state was accused of jamming satellite navigation signals.  According to Flight Global:

The organisation is intending to co-operate with South Korea over the matter, says the Korean ministry of foreign affairs.

It follows a meeting between Korean foreign minister Kim Sung-Hwan and ICAO secretary general Raymond Benjamin yesterday.

The ministry says that ICAO has accepted its position of “pointing out the illegality” of Global Positioning System signal jamming by North Korea in early March, and that a “recurrence of such [an] incident must not occur”.

It also says that ICAO has agreed to “co-operate with Korea in taking necessary measures” should there be another incident, because North Korea’s action “threatens civil aviation safety, of not only Korea but also other countries”.

ICAO was not immediately available to comment on the foreign ministry’s statement.

UPDATE 2 (3/20/2011): According to Strategy Page:

Since the 18th, North Korea has been directing a GPS jamming signal across the border, and towards the southern capital, Seoul. The jamming signal can be detected up to a hundred kilometers south of the DMZ. The North Korea GPS jammers are based on known Russian models that North Korea bought and copied. The usual response for GPS jamming is to bomb the jammers, which are easy to find (jamming is nothing more than broadcasting a more powerful version of the frequency you want to interfere with). But such a response could lead to more fighting, so the south is still considering what to do. The jamming is a nuisance more than a threat, and most military equipment is equipped with electronics and other enhancements to defeat it. This is the third time in a year that the north has attacked the south. The first was the torpedoing of a South Korean warship a year ago, then the shelling of a South Korean island off the west coast last November. Now this jamming, and DDOS attacks on government websites.

UPDATE 1 (3/15/2011): According to Yonhap, the DPRK has rejected a letter of complaint from the South over GPS jamming:

North Korea on Tuesday rejected a letter from South Korea demanding that the communist nation stop sending jamming signals across the border, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said.

South Korea’s communications watchdog, Korea Communications Commission (KCC), asked the ministry earlier in the day to send the North a letter in which it complained of the trouble caused by disruptions to Global Positioning System (GPS) signals in the South.

South Korean officials have blamed North Korea for jamming the signals early this month in what they believe was an attempt to interrupt ongoing military drills between South Korean and U.S. forces. GPS-based mobile phones and certain military equipment in the South’s northwestern areas experienced minor errors due to the disruption, according to officials.

“Following KCC’s request, we tried to deliver to the North a letter of complaint written in the name of KCC Chairman Choi See-joong through the liaison office at Panmunjom,” the ministry said, referring to the inter-Korean truce village. “But the North’s liaison officer refused to receive it.”

In the letter, the KCC said it demanded that the North “instantly stop jamming activities and provide measures against similar incidents in the future.”

The commission also wrote that the jamming of GPS signals is “causing an inconvenience to our people and threatening their safety,” adding that such actions are “unacceptable” under International Telecommunications Union regulations. Both South and North Korea are members of the Union.

North Korea was accused of jamming GPS signals across the border last year, but this is the first time the South has tried to lodge an official complaint on the matter.

South Korea has already sought international action against the sabotage, with the foreign ministry sending a letter of inquiry to a United Nations agency in charge of information and communication technologies, a presidential official said earlier this month.

ORIGINAL POST (3/8/2011): According to the AFP (via Singapore’s Straits Times):

Seoul confirmed on Monday that North Korea has been trying since Friday to jam communications signals across the border, where the US and South Korea are holding a major joint military exercise.

Signals are being emitted from near the North’s border city of Kaesong to disrupt navigational devices using GPS (the Global Positioning System) north-west of Seoul, the Korea Communications Commission said.

They caused minor inconvenience on Friday and Saturday, it said, while weaker signals are ongoing. ‘Intermittent (GPS) disruptions are still continuing, although signals are weak,’ the commission said in a statement, adding that it was working with government agencies and security authorities to counter the jamming.

The South’s defence ministry confirmed the intermittent failure of GPS receivers last week, but refused to give details for security reasons. It was not clear whether the disruption caused problems to the war games.

The North’s military operates dozens of bases equipped for an electronic war to disrupt South Korean military communications, the South’s Yonhap news agency said. The communist country has imported GPS jamming devices from Russia, while South Korea uses French equipment to disrupt or monitor the North’s military communications systems, it said.

How do these kinds of attacks work and how effective are they? According to Wired:

North Korea is reportedly jamming Global Positioning System (GPS) signals in South Korea, possibly in an attempt to interfere with the U.S.-South Korean annual Key Resolve/Foal Eagle drills, which kicked off on February 28.

GPS jammers work by sending a signal that interferes with the communication between a satellite and GPS receiver. It’s a relatively simple operation, with relatively short-range effects. Thus far, cell phones used by civilians and troops and some military equipment have been put on the fritz by the disruption attempts.

But the juiciest target for the North’s jamming efforts would be the U.S. and South Korean arsenals of GPS-directed bombs.

If it works just right, the GPS jammer can cut off a satellite-guided bomb’s ability to guide itself to target. The bomb simply continues hurtling towards the ground in the direction it was when it lost contact with a satellite.

However, these weapons have other means of guiding themselves in the event of jamming. Take the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), a guidance kit that’s strapped to older, “dumb” bombs to make them more accurate. In addition to GPS, the JDAM kit comes equipped with an Inertial Navigation System (INS), which measures a bomb’s acceleration and uses the information to plot its way to a target. In the event a JDAM’s GPS signal is successfully jammed, it can rely on its INS to guide it, although accuracy is reduced from 5 to 30 meters.

That’s not the only backup for U.S. bombs. “Increasingly you see that there are multi-mode smart munitions that have both GPS and laser guided so that if one is not working, the other can,” says John Pike, a defense and aerospace expert and president of

Though he’s not familiar with the specific systems used by the North Korea, Pike says other incidents make him think the U.S. might not have much to worry about in this case.

“The jammings that I have been aware of in other instances I would place into the category of ’seriously annoying.’”

North Korea is believed to have both a GPS jamming system imported from Russia and a modified version its been shopping around the Middle East, according to South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo. Russia reportedly sold a GPS jamming system to Iraq on the eve of the second Gulf War. And in case you missed that one, jamming wasn’t much of an issue for U.S. bombs.

But jamming might not be the only info war trick North Korea’s been up to lately.

Last week, at least 29 websites were affected by a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, which targeted a number of South Korean government, U.S. military and private sector sites. At the moment, the origin of the web traffic flood remains unknown, but North Korea is widely suspected because of its prior history. In June 2009, South Korea intelligence attributed a series of DDoS attacks which targeted a similar portfolio of sites to North Korea.

Which organizations in the DPRK carry put these kinds of operations? The Choson Ilbo highlights the well known Mirim College for Electronic Warfare Research

Pictured above on Google Earth: Suspected initial location of the Mirim War College in Pyongyang (39.013904°, 125.877156°) (via Michael Madden).  Reports now indicate it has been moved to the other side of Pyongyang in Hyonjesan-guyok.


According to the Choson Ilbo:

Pyongyang began developing electronic warfare capabilities in 1986 when it founded Mirim University, the present-day Automation University, to train specialists.

A defector who graduated from the university recalled that 25 Russian professors were invited from the Frunze Military Academy in the former Soviet Union to give lectures, and some 100 to 110 hackers were trained there every year.

Mirim is a five-year college. The Amrokgang College of Military Engineering, the National Defense University, the Air Force Academy and the Naval Academy are also reportedly training electronic warfare specialists.

Jang Se-yul of North Korean People’s Liberation Front, an organization of former North Korean military officers and servicemen, recalled that when he fled the North in 2007, “I heard that the North Korean military has about 30,000 electronic warfare specialists, including some 1,200 personnel under two electronic warfare brigades.”

“Each Army corps operates an automation unit, or an electronic warfare unit.” Jang used to be an officer of a North Korean electronic warfare command.

Material published by the North Korean Army in 2005 quotes leader Kim Jong-il as saying, “Modern war is electronic warfare. Victory or defeat of a modern war depends on how to carry out electronic warfare.”

In a 2006 report, the South Korean military warned North Korean hackers could paralyze the command post of the U.S. Pacific Command and damage computer systems on the U.S. mainland.

Experts believe that the North’s 600 or so special hackers are as good as their CIA counterparts. They attempted in August 2008 to hack the computer of a colonel in South Korean Field Army headquarters. In 1999, the U.S. Defense Department said the most frequent visitor to its website was traced to North Korea.

Due to economic difficulties since the 1990s, the North Korean regime had a hard time boosting its conventional military capabilities and instead focused on strengthening so-called asymmetric capabilities that would allow it to achieve relatively large effects with small expenses. That includes not only nuclear and biochemical weapons and missiles but also special forces and hackers.

FAS has more on the Mirim-based school here.

A couple of years ago, the Daily NK mentioned another possible contender: Moranbong University

Pictured above on Google Earth: Korean Workers’ Party Building 3 complex in Pyongyang (39.057894°, 125.758494°)

According to the Daily NK:

Moranbong University, which is directly managed by the Operations Department of the Workers’ Party, is said to be leading technical developments in cyber war against foreign countries.

A North Korean source said in a telephone interview with Daily NK on the 10th, “I heard that the U.S. and South Korea were attacked. If it were confirmed that North Korea was responsible, it would have been by the graduates of Moranbong University.”

According to the source, since the mid-1990s, the Workers’ Party has been watching the worldwide trend whereby the IT field started dominating, and founded Moranbong University in 1997 in order to train experts in data-processing, code-breaking, hacking and other high-tech skills. The results of new student selections, curricula and training are reported only to the Director of the Operations Department, Oh Keuk Ryul.

The foundation of the University was spurred by the North Korean invasion of the South in Kangreung, Kangwon Province in 1996. 26 North Korean special agents tried to infiltrate South Korea after passing under the Northern Limit Line in a special, mini-submarine, but they were all killed or committed suicide after the operation failed. After that, there was a debate within the South Korean Liaison Office under the Operations Department of the Party about the sending of spies to the South and collecting intelligence through contact with resident spies in South Korean society. After listening to such suggestions, Kim Jong Il approved the establishment of the university.

It is a five-year university which selects 30 freshmen every year. The university makes every freshman a military first lieutenant. In sophomore year, students take courses in martial arts, shooting and other special skills, and then they take courses in assembly languages, wiretapping, code-breaking, and hacking.

Graduates are dispatched to the headquarters of the Operations Department of the Party or local South Korea Liaison Offices, where they are put in charge of collecting intelligence from intelligence organizations and the military of South Korea, the U.S., Japan, China and other neighboring countries, or demolishing programs.

Since 2003, more than 200 graduates from the University have started working for the Operations Department or as professors of Moranbong University. Some of them have been dispatched to China in order to train in international techniques or to earn foreign currency as Chosun Computer Center (KCC) workers.

According to the source, Moranbong Univeristy is better than Mirim University, the former main educational institution for North Korean hackers, in terms of equipment, technology and curricula. It is located in Jung-district, just across from the No. 3 Government Building, in which the United Front Department, the Liaison Department and the Operation Department are stationed. The real purpose of the university is not officially revealed even to general agents of the Operations Department, because it is treated as top secret.

The source concluded, “Wiretapping has its limits because of a lack of equipment, but they have world-class hacking technology.”

The Daily NK,  Choson Ilbo, and Strategy Page later posted additional information on these organizations.

South Korea is said to be seeking additional sanctions on the DPRK for these activities.  According to Yonhap:

But they said the North should not go unpunished for the sabotage, with a senior presidential official hinting at the possibility of seeking sanctions against the communist nation.

A charter of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) bans a country from doing damage to electric waves of other nations. Both South and North Korea are members of the ITU.

The foreign ministry already sent a letter of inquiry to a United Nations agency in charge of information and communication technologies, the presidential official said on condition of anonymity.

Read the full stories here:
N. Korea launches electronic attacks on S. Korea
AFP (Straits Times)

North Korea Jams GPS in War Game Retaliation
Adam Rawnsley

N.Korea Trains Up Hacker Squad
Choson Ilbo

Mecca for North Korean Hackers
Daily NK
Jung Kwon Ho


Research round-up: DPRK minerals, military, and agriculture

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Three items popped up on my radar this afternoon so in the interest of time I thought I would post them all together.  All three are worth checking out:

Status and Future of the North Korean Minerals Sector
The DPRK Energy and Minerals Experts Working Group Project  at the Nautilus Institute
Edward Yoon
Download paper here (PDF)

The minerals industry is of great importance to the economy of the Democratic People’s  Republic of Korea (DPRK), accounting for about 15.2% of its exports in 2005. (Chung, Woo Jin 2007, p. 3). In particular, the iron and coal mining industries have been priority industries for DPRK economic development since the 1970s (Korea Mining Promotional Corporation report, 2005). Minerals industries in the DPRK have been played prominent roles in North Korean National exports as shown in Table 1, below.  The DPRK holds the great bulk of the total known minerals deposits on the Korean peninsula. It is estimated that some 200 of the minerals found in the DPRK have economic values. The value of North Korea’s known minerals deposits was estimated to be nearly thirty times of that of South Korea’s as of 2005.

Mining industries are very important to the DPRK. The mining subsector of the DPRK’s industry accounted 8.3% of the North Korean GDP and about 15.9% of total export revenues in 2005. The minerals production sector in North Korea has, however, been struggling because of poor central planning and a lack of modern technology and equipment, as well as a shortage of electricity. For these reasons, North Korea needs to rebuild its production lines by obtaining proper equipment and technology (ibid, p.14).  As a result of the problems noted, minerals production in the DPRK has declined sharply in the past two decades.  It is estimated that production in 2002 was between one third and one half in comparison with output data obtained during 1989 (ibid, p. 12, and private source, 2010). In the decade from 1997 to 2007, DPRK  authorities have allowed foreign investors to participate in selected mining projects.  The  Government plans to continue its effort to consolidate heavy industries, and at the same time to develop light industries.

KPA Journal Vol.2, No. 1
Joseph Bermudez, military analyst for Jane’s Intelligence Review and author of The Armed Forces of North Korea, has published the next issue of his very fascinating KPA Journal.  Topics include: Wartime underwater bridges, KPA involvement in Burundi, Kim Ok Biography (Michael Madden), Type-63 107mm MRL.

The full issue can be downloaded here (PDF) and past issues can be downloaded at the journal’s home page.

CIA Assesses Flooding in the DPRK
CIA analysts studied data on major floods due to rainfall in North Korea since 1996 in order to devise a framework for evaluating the significance of such floods and their likely consequences for North Korean agriculture.  The analysts identified four principal variables:  the intensity of the rainfall, the location of the rainfall, the time of year, and damage to non-agricultural infrastructure.

“Rainfall intensity and geography of flooding appear to be key variables with the most impact,” their report (pdf) said. “Critical periods in the agricultural growth cycle — for sowing, growing, and harvesting — and the scope and severity of infrastructure damage are compounding variables that can magnify the impact of major floods in key food producing areas.”

All four elements were present in 1996 and 2007, when flooding produced the most severe agricultural impact.  But using the methodology described, analysts judge that the cumulative impact of two instances of heavy rain in 2010 “has been relatively low.”

FAS has posted a copy of the paper here (PDF)