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North Korea

Officer Corps: Recruitment and Education


Figure 12. Officer Ranks and Insignia, 1992


Figure 13. Enlisted Ranks and Insignia, 1992

The first military training school, the P'yongyang Military Academy, was established in North Korea in 1945. The Security Cadres School was founded in 1946 and was later renamed the First Officer Candidate School.

The military education and training system for officers is quite elaborate. The officer education system includes approximately seventeen universities, colleges, schools, and academies. Among them are officer candidate schools for each service; basic and advanced branch schools for armor, artillery, rear services, and other branches; mid-career staff colleges; senior war colleges; and special schools, including medical and veterinary service schools.

Officer candidates, typically selected from enlisted men who have served three to four years in the military, receive their initial cadet training at a service academy. The Kang Kon Military Academy near P'yongyang is North Korea's equivalent of the United States Military Academy at West Point. The academy offers a two-year course for infantry and rear service; a threeyear course for engineering, communications, chemical, and other services; and a six-to-twelve-month "short course" refresher for all branches of service.

Two schools are of particular importance. The Mangyngdae Revolutionary Institute, founded in 1947 for children of the party elite, provides a seven-year quasi-military training program. Kim Il Sung Military College, the most prestigious military school for training senior officers and ranking party cadre, has a three-year course designed for senior company and field-grade officers. Graduation is a prerequisite for promotion to general. A one-year "refresher" course is offered for senior field-grade and general officers of all services and for senior party officials.

The Air Academy in Ch'ngjin, founded in 1961 when it separated from Kim Il Sung Military College, offers a four-year course for regular cadets, a three-year mid-career staff college course, and a one-year refresher course. Senior officer training courses and refresher courses also are offered. Cadets become pilots or maintenance officers upon graduation from the academy. The Naval Academy, located at Najin, offers a four-year training program and a mid-career staff college course of unknown length.

Mid-career staff, or "refresher," training is offered at all the service academies at various branch schools. Courses taught at the service colleges run six months to a year, whereas branch and other courses tend to be limited to six months.

Recruitment and selection of political officers vary with rank. Stringent selection requirements include prior military service, a family with a politically reliable background, and proven party loyalty. Political officers are trained at Kim Il Sung Political College and Kumsong Political College, among other institutions. Training focuses on politics, economics, party history, chuch'e (see Glossary) philosophy, and party loyalty. Upon graduating, students are appointed second lieutenants in political or political security positions in KPA units. Advanced political officer training also is provided.

Political officers for field-grade positions are selected by the political department at the corps level from party members in the corps headquarters. Supplemental training can include a sixmonth course at a political college. Candidates for positions at the division or higher level are identified by the Organization Department of the General Political Bureau of the KPA. They are then screened by the party committee and approved by the Secretariat of the party Central Committee before appointment as head of a political department at the division or higher level.

College Reserve Military Training Units at colleges and universities provide most of the training for reserve officers. Information available about the training does not differentiate between the officer selection process and other reserve military training. There may be two separate tracks or a selection process at the end of training.

Officer rank structure is divided into company-grade, fieldgrade , and general officers. The army and air force have the same ranks, but the navy has a different nomenclature (see fig. 12). Company-grade officer ranks are four-tiered for the army and air force and three-tiered for the navy.

Promotion is a slow process. There is a minimum period of two years between private and private first class and four or five years between private first class (private and senior private in the air force, or seaman apprentice and seaman in the navy) and consideration for non-commissioned officer (NCO) training and corporal status (see fig. 13). NCO training is conducted at an NCO school and lasts between six and ten months.

Until December 1991, Kim Il Sung alone held the rank of marshal in his position as supreme commander of the KPA. In December 1991, Kim Jong Il was named supreme commander of the KPA; and on April 20, 1992, Kim Il Sung was given the title Grand Marshal and Kim Jong Il and Minister of People's Armed Forces O Chin-u were named marshal. The title of vice marshal was also awarded to eight other military leaders. These promotions were followed by a massive wave of senior officer promotions that involved as many as 664 generals.

Data as of June 1993

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