North Korea has been rattling its sabers against the South since hostilities ended nearly 60 years ago. In recent times, they torpedoed a Navy destroyer and shelled islands off the coast in their ongoing attempts to agitate and test the waters of resolve in the Seoul government.

Behind this show of strength, though, everyone knows the North faces a host of problems. Chief among these are starvation and a totalitarian system incapable of providing the basic needs of its people. Nevertheless, the same problems can’t be said of its military, which gets priority and boasts one of the highest manpower allotments in the world.

Indoctrinated at birth for complete devotion to their God-like leaders, they stand opposite the demilitarized zone with some 11,000 artillery pieces, carefully camouflaged and ready to rain destruction on their southern adversary the moment their leader decides the final showdown is at hand. Ready to embroil the peninsula in a bloody war likely to cost hundreds of thousands of lives…and the possibility of mushroom clouds.

Thankfully, it hasn’t happened…yet.

North Korea’s regular military is large – 1.1 million active and 8.2 million reserves – and their capabilities are well-known. Let’s take a look at its best units, the highly trained fighters who fill the ranks of the almost 200,000 North Korean Special Operations Forces.

The origin and data on North Korea’s Spec Ops is sketchy, but goes back to the late 1960s, when commandos landed on several South Korean beaches, fought a series of battles, and then retreated back across the border. Since then, there have been regular incursion attempts by submarine and thir preferred method, the tunnel.

At present, elite units occupy four areas in the military:

  1. Reconnaissance Brigades, which are assigned to intelligence gathering, assassination and attacking strategic targets.
  2. Light Infantry Battalions, which specialize in rapid infiltration and assault of rear areas, cutting off communications and hitting factories, power plants and other High Value Targets. These men are assigned to Corps level units
  3. Paratroopers, which lack in effective transport, so they practice infiltrating via helicopter or small planes.
  4. Maritime Commandos, which specialize in seizing coasts and intelligence gathering. After securing the beach they focus on attacking rear areas.

Delivery is by small ship or submarine. It is estimated that up to 7,000 could be landed on each of the South’s coastlines. 5,000 in one lift, if the South can be taken by surprise.