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North Korea

The Evolution of North Korean Military Thought

North Korean military doctrine has evolved through as many as four stages since the founding of the KPA in February 1948. North Korean military writings derive from Marxism-Leninism through the conduit of "Kim Il Sung Thought." Kim Il Sung is credited with virtually everything in North Korean military thought, from Lenin's reformulation of Clausewitz's classic definition of war to basic squad tactics.

North Korean military thinking began as a mixture of Soviet strategic and Chinese tactical influences. At the Third Plenum of the Second KWP Central Committee in December 1950, Kim Il Sung's report, "The Present Condition and the Confronting Task," for the first time interjected North Korean combat experience into military doctrine and thought. From 1951 to December 1962, North Korean military orthodoxy was a conventional warfare doctrine based on Soviet military doctrine and operational art modified on the basis of the Korean War experience. This duality is readily acknowledged in official publications such as the KWP journal, K lloja (The Worker). Stalin's five "permanently operating factors," factors that determine the course and outcome of war, were directly incorporated into North Korean military doctrine. The factors are the stability of the rear, the morale of the army, the quantity and quality of divisions, the armament of the army, and the organizing ability of the command personnel. The importance of combined arms operations (armor, infantry, and artillery operating in close coordination) also reflects strong Soviet influence.

North Korean military doctrine shifted dramatically in December 1962 away from the doctrine of regular warfare to a doctrine that embraced people's war. At the Fifth Plenum of the Fourth KWP Central Committee in December 1962, Kim Il Sung espoused the Four Military Guidelines: to arm the entire population; to fortify the entire country; to train the entire army as a "cadre army"; and to modernize weaponry, doctrine, and tactics under the principle of self-reliance in national defense. The adoption of this military line signaled a shift from a Soviet-style strategy to a Maoist protracted war of attrition. Conventional warfare strategy was incorporated into and subordinated to the overall concept of people's war and the mobilization of the entire people through reinforcement of ideological training. These principles are formally adopted in Article 60 of the 1992 constitution.

The shift supplies the doctrinal basis for North Korea's strategy of covert infiltrations into South Korea, assassinations, and attempts at fostering insurgencies in South Korea during the late 1960s. During this period, doctrine also began to stress the need to adapt these concepts to the North Korean situation. Military thinking emphasized the necessity of light weapons, high angle indirect fire, and night fighting. Renewed emphasis was given to sea denial and coastal defense during this period.

Data as of June 1993