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
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
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
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
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