HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Main » General Discussion (Forum) » Rhetoric and Reality of N...
Introducing Discussionist: A new forum by the creators of DU

Sun Mar 31, 2013, 04:33 AM

Rhetoric and Reality of North Korea's military by top asian analysis

This report was originally presented at the East Asia Nuclear Security workshop held on November 11, 2011 in Tokyo


North Korea occasionally threatens to “turn Seoul into a Sea of Fire”. The South Korean, U.S. and other international media often relay this statement, amplifying its effect. But can North Korea really do this? Does it matter if they can? The short answer is they can’t; but they can kill many tens of thousands of people, start a larger war and cause a tremendous amount of damage before ultimately losing their regime.

Therefore, it doesn’t matter whether they can do it directly since they have the capability to ignite a sequence of events leading to widespread destruction and likely regime change in Pyongyang. Previous Nuclear Weapon Free Zones have usually required about three decades to implement after discussions started during periods of stasis.

Therefore, this is a period of stasis in which to explore confidence building measures and possibly something as radical as a Korea Japan Nuclear Weapon Free Zone.


If the North Korean Peoples Army (KPA) were to start a doctrinal, conventional artillery barrage focused on South Korean forces, we could expect to see around three thousand casualties in the first few minutes, but the casualty rate would quickly drop as the surprise wears off and counter-battery fires slow down the North Korean rates of fire.

If the KPA were to engage Seoul in a primarily counter-value fashion by firing into Seoul instead of primarily aiming at military targets, there would likely be around thirty-thousand casualties in a short amount of time. Statistically speaking, almost eight-hundred of those casualties would be foreigners given Seoul’s international demographic. Chinese make up almost seventy percent of foreigners in Seoul and its northern environs which means KPA might also kill six-hundred Chinese diplomats, multi-national corporation leaders, and ranking cadre children who are students in Seoul.


Horrible, but nothing approaching “millions”. Three primary factors and three secondary factors account for the huge discrepancy between rhetoric and reality:


Three Primary Factors

Range – Only about 1/3 of Seoul is presently in range from artillery along a DMZ trace. The northern reaches of Seoul within artillery range have much lower population densities than Seoul proper;
Numbers – Even though KPA has a tremendous number of artillery pieces, only a certain number are emplaced to range Seoul. KPA can’t emplace every weapon near Seoul or the rest of North Korea’s expansive border would be unguarded and even more vulnerable.

Moreover, an artillery tube immediately reveals its location as soon as it fires.

Therefore only about two-thirds of artillery will open fire at a time. The rest are trying to remain hidden;
Protection – Artillery shelters for twenty million people exist in the greater Seoul metropolitan area.

After the initial surprise has worn off, there simply won’t be large numbers of exposed people. Even during the initial attack the vast majority of people will either be at work, at home, or in transit. Few people will be standing in the middle of an open field with no protection whatsoever available anywhere nearby.


Three Secondary Factors


Read more: http://nautilus.org/napsnet/napsnet-special-reports/mind-the-gap-between-rhetoric-and-reality/#ixzz2P6VwXM3D


BTW every newly elected Government in the south is tested by the north with angry rhetoric.

Go to the link for more analysis.

10 replies, 1435 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 10 replies Author Time Post
Reply Rhetoric and Reality of North Korea's military by top asian analysis (Original post)
Ichingcarpenter Mar 2013 OP
Sherman A1 Mar 2013 #1
Victor_c3 Mar 2013 #2
Ichingcarpenter Mar 2013 #3
jsr Mar 2013 #4
Ichingcarpenter Mar 2013 #5
jsr Mar 2013 #6
Ichingcarpenter Mar 2013 #7
TwilightGardener Mar 2013 #8
Lurks Often Mar 2013 #9
bluedigger Mar 2013 #10

Response to Ichingcarpenter (Original post)

Sun Mar 31, 2013, 05:14 AM

1. Thanks for Posting

I skimmed over the piece and it is very interesting.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Ichingcarpenter (Original post)

Sun Mar 31, 2013, 06:23 AM

2. The one thing I didn't see mentioned was the capabilities of military hardware

Most of the North Korean military is made up of 1960s and 1970s era hardware. They did get some 80s, 90s, and even an example of a few modern pieces of hardware from the Russians that they have attempted to copy, but they don't have the capabilities to reproduce much of it.

Recall the stunning victory our conventional ground forces had in 1991 over the ground forces of Iraq in the first gulf war. The Iraqi Army was made up of similar weapons to the North Koreans. In the course of the "100 hour war" about 3,700 Iraqi tanks were destroyed while we lost between 3-5s tank (and I believe that all but one of those was attributed to friendly fire).

From our lessons learned in the 1990s, several modifications were made to our conventional forces to make them even more lethal. Even though we still field the same Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Abrams Tanks, they have been modified extensively.

Additionally, there has been a huge improvement in our command and control capabilities since the 1990s as well, further amplifying our ability to integrate air/ground fire and various resources for greater lethality.

And, unlike the North Koreans, we have a military that has (unfortunately) a lot of experience fighting wars.

As a US military veteran I'm probably a little full of myself and our capabilities, but the US Army would absolutely chew up the North Koreans. As the article cited, other than the damage that could be inflicted during an initial barrage of fire, the war would be very one-sided in the South Korean's favor. Without huge support from the Chinese and Russians like the North Koreans received in the 1950s, there is no way the North Koreans could last a long and drawn out war.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Victor_c3 (Reply #2)

Sun Mar 31, 2013, 06:38 AM

3. The Dud factor was discussed

Anyway this is one of best scholarly scenarios I've read yet vs the newspapers or TV pundit speculations.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Ichingcarpenter (Original post)

Sun Mar 31, 2013, 08:34 AM

4. Great analysis.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to jsr (Reply #4)

Sun Mar 31, 2013, 12:32 PM

5. I'm tired of stupid threads

with ignorant speculation and hyperbole

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Ichingcarpenter (Reply #5)

Sun Mar 31, 2013, 12:56 PM

6. Yep. The guy may be an idiot but he's not that suicidal.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to jsr (Reply #6)

Sun Mar 31, 2013, 01:04 PM

7. Many reports of assignation attempts since December

He's weeding out his military under the guise of aggressive rhetoric most real observers think this is show is for the home front.

However he does go overboard just like his Dad did.
Any real attack would be national suicide for him, his military and his dynasty.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Ichingcarpenter (Original post)

Sun Mar 31, 2013, 01:10 PM

8. I keep saying, the problem isn't the rhetoric. This appears to be a study of

their military capabilities, but it was written two years ago, and they've successfully launched a satellite, long-range missile, and conducted nuclear testing since--catching our intelligence community a little off guard. A 29-year old might, or might not be, in charge, whom we know little about. There is evidence that things are seriously unraveling there, internal struggles for power, more starvation/famine, who knows. And they don't just "test" new leaders with rhetoric--they have used military aggression in the recent past in order to provoke some kind of reaction. If they do that now, all hell may break loose. That's why we can't dismiss them as being incapable of massive destruction, or assume it's business as usual for their behavior.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Ichingcarpenter (Original post)

Sun Mar 31, 2013, 02:11 PM

9. If anything it understates US Military capability

The NK Army's military equipment is mostly earlier 1960's technology, with some 1950's and 1980's technology in smaller quantities. In other words they would be a good 10-15 years BEHIND the Iraqi army of 1991 in capability. In addition to logistical issues and mostly obsolete technology, there are a couple of intangible factors not be considered. The average NK soldier is likely to be smaller then his SK contemporary due undernourishment since birth. This will impact the artillery crews the most as handling artillery shells requires strength and stamina, so it is unlikely they will be able to keep up the initial rate of fire. The other factor to be considered is their morale. Right now the morale of the average NK soldier is probably pretty good, but expect that morale to be brittle once the shooting actually starts. When they find out that the SK and US militaries are NOT the weak forces they've been told by the leaders and when they start dying both around the clock and not even near the front lines, it is likely they will surrender in large numbers.

The US military (and to a lesser degree the SK military) has made significant technological advances since 1991 and the US military has a large percentage of combat veterans. There is little doubt in my mind that the US has all or virtually all of the NK nuclear and chemical weapons sites identified and those sites will be hit immediately by cruise missiles and long range artillery with follow up strikes by B-2's as soon as night falls.

Another Korean War should be avoided, however if one occurs, the North Koreans will lose.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Ichingcarpenter (Original post)

Sun Mar 31, 2013, 02:28 PM

10. Thanks for posting this.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread