Organization and Disposition
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
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
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