North Korea Table of Contents
The army initially was organized along Chinese and Soviet concepts. Over time, this organization has adjusted to the unique circumstances of the military problem the KPA faces and to the evolution of North Korean military doctrine and thought.
In the 1980s, the mechanized infantry and armored and artillery forces were reorganized into new mechanized armored and artillery corps to implement the change in strategic thinking. This restructuring suggests that some infantry divisions were used to form the new mechanized forces and then reformed, and that a similar pattern apparently was used to reconstruct the armored corps.
Until 1986 most sources claimed the army had two armored divisions. These divisions disappeared from the order of battle and were replaced by the armored corps and a doubling of the armored brigade count. In the mid-1980s, the heavy caliber selfpropelled artillery was consolidated into the first multibrigade artillery corps. At the same time, the restructured mobile exploitation forces were redeployed forward, closer to the DMZ. The forward corps areas of operation were compressed although their internal organization appeared to remain basically the same. The deployment of the newly formed mechanized, armored, and artillery corps directly behind the first echelon conventional forces provides a potent exploitation force that did not exist prior to 1980.
As of 1992, the army was composed of sixteen corps commands, two separate special operations forces commands, and nine military district commands (or regions) under the control of the Ministry of the People's Armed Forces) (see table 9, Appendix). Most sources agree that North Korea's ground forces consist of approximately 145 divisions and brigades, of which approximately 120 are active. There is less agreement, however, on the breakdown of the forces.
In 1992 North Korea was divided among the conventional geographic corps (see fig. 11). The army's armored and mechanized corps, composed of independent combined arms brigades tailored to the restrictive terrain of the peninsula, are positioned along the avenues of approach as exploitation and counterattack forces.
Each province has, independent of the collocated conventional geographic corps, a regional Military District Command dedicated to local defense, which controls predominantly reserve forces organized into divisions and brigades. The Military District Commands apparently were formed during a restructuring of the reserves during the 1980s. Their command structure is unclear, although they apparently control the local reserves, some regular forces, and coastal defense units.
Data as of June 1993