The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) have one of the largest ground forces in the world, and were once referred to as the “Million Man Army.” Although their ground forces are estimated somewhere in the region of 950,000 soldiers, the large majority are under-trained and malnourished.
In standing with other past communist and oppressed countries, North Korea’s main strength lies in their ability to put on one hell of a parade. These show of force maneuvers are thought raise the morale of the people by their high-stepping, in-cadence marching. Unfortunately, I don’t foresee them showcasing their strengths in the Olympics any time in the near future. I’m thinking doubles synchronized marching.
With their self-inflicted closed system and the trade embargos that have been established against the country, the DPRK cannot fiscally support all troops and their training. The majority of their military is likened to a reserve style component that can be called upon as needed.
The troops that are active on a daily basis are concentrated in forward areas and serve within the hundreds of miles of tunnel systems along the southern border. Most of their weapons are based off of 1960-1970’s Soviet era weapons.
The vast majority of tanks are the models T-55 and T-62. Although less in number, the DPRK has also developed the P’okpung-Ho, which according to the DOD contains elements of the T-62, T-72, Type 88, T-80, and T-90 soviet tanks.
Besides the massive number of troops, the DPRK’s main threat to an invading force lie in its stockpile of artillery and MRLs systems. These include the M-1978 170mm howitzer, BM-24 240mm MRLs, and massive varieties of ZPU anti-aircraft guns and over 7,000 mortars.
The standard issue rifle of the DPRK active infantry is the AKM, which is a 1950s variant of the AK-47. The major differences between the AKM and the AK-47 are the AKM is slightly more accurate and has a stamped receiver instead of the milled style associated with the original AK-47 rifle.
The reserve component of the DPRK is issued the standard AK-47, while their special operations troops use the improved AK-74 as their standard issue rifle. Even their sniper rifles are considered a more designated marksman type weapon with the Zastava M76 and Dragunov SVD in service.
One of the largest issues with North Korea is not their fighting strength, but their proliferation of internationally illegal arms to other known enemy states of the U.S.
The DPRK has reconfigured many of their largest factories into weapons and ammunition manufacturing plants, which enables them to ship large quantities of weapons to countries such as Iran and Syria. This is despite the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) 1718, 1874, and 2087 which prohibits all weapons sales and certain categories of technical training from North Korea.
Overall, North Korea does not have any secret weapon that would surely spell defeat for the United States if we were to ever enter into battle with the ‘bully’ of East Asia. They may beat us in a head to head match of drill and ceremony, but on the weapons front, we surely would win in a battle of quality over quantity.