The country of North Korea, which lies in the most eastern portion of Asia, is a country that has prided them with isolating itself from the rest of the world, therefore also known as the Hermit Kingdom. Due to the fact of being a country, which metaphorically walls itself from the rest of the world, it is hard to keep accurate statistics and information up to date about it. Relations between the United States of America and North Korea, since the signing of the armistice of the Korean War in 1953, remain almost nonexistent and tensions are high.
As those tensions should continue to escalate, we need to understand the environment should we be involved in military conflict. The first area in which I will focus on is the political power of North Korea. North Korea is a communist state ran by a one-man dictatorship, Kim Jong Un, the chief of state, as he is known. There are three major political parties within the country, the Korean Workers Party, the Chondoist Chongu Party, and the Social Democratic Party. Out of the three political parties, the Korean Workers Party is the ruling and most dominant.
Although there are two other political parties, the Korean Workers Party controls them. North Korea’s government is similarly set up as the United States of America with there being an executive branch, legislative branch, and a judicial branch. Elections occur in each branch to include the chief of state, but the Korean Workers Party has chosen all candidates who run unopposed and win each position of those branches. The North Korean military, as of 2008, has the fourth largest military force behind China, United States, and India.
There are approximately 1,106,000 personnel in the Korean People’s Army spread throughout three branches of service. Those three branches are the Army, Air Force, and Navy. North Korea’s Army holds a majority of the total armed forces with 950,000 followed by the air force with 110,000 and the navy with 46,000 (Worden, 2008, p. xxvi). To be more specific, the Army has nine infantry, four mechanized, one tank, and one artillery Corps. Their Navy consists of two fleets while their Air Force has four air divisions and three combat air divisions.
Being a conventional armed force, North Korea holds the military capabilities similar to the United States. On the Army side, their force capabilities include; approximately 1,000,000 infantry Soldiers, 13,500 artillery pieces being the largest amount in the world, 3,700 tanks, 2,100 armored personnel carriers, and 15,600 antiaircraft pieces. The Air Force’s air capabilities include; 780 fighter planes, 80 bombers, 300 helicopters, 300 biplanes, and over 100 support aircraft. A majority of the Air Force’s aircraft are older Russian made planes.
The Navy’s capabilities include; 430 surface combatant ships, approximately 90 submarines, 230 support vessels, and 260 landing craft. With as many ships in the Navy spread into just two fleets, their abilities to conduct offensive operations are very limited and are mainly just a defensive Navy. Along with their conventional forces, North Korea contains a multitude of ballistic missiles from short range to long range capable of carrying chemical and nuclear payloads. North Korea also possesses many chemicals that can be created into weapons and having about ten nuclear weapons.
All these branches of service and weapon systems are under the direct control of the communist dictator, chief of state Kim Jong Un. North Korea’s economy is mostly industrial based and in total control and regulated by the government. Its economy is one of the world’s most repressed economies due to the collapse of communist nations and its isolation of international relations. Coal, Iron, and Magnesite deposit mining is one the largest productions in the country. Although, due to the lack of sophisticated and modern equipment, North Korea has not been able to keep up with the high demands of coal mining for the sole purpose of fuel.
Iron ore and Magnesite on the other hand, is the extremely important for the country in foreign exchange and production of other goods. Some of the other minerals North Korea mines include; lead, zinc, tungsten, mercury, copper, phosphate, gold, silver, and sulfur. Their industrial production also includes the manufacturing of low grade farming machinery and a vast amount of military equipment. The textiles that the country produces come in the form of cotton, silk and synthetic fibers. Agriculture production is a mixture of rice, soybeans, vegetables, and fruits.
Only about 18% of North Korea’s land is suitable for crops since most of its land is mountainous, rugged and receives very little precipitation. For that very fact, livestock is very important for the country. Mostly sheep and goats are raised in the rugged mountains while chickens are raised near the capital of Pyongyang. North Korea most recently opened up trade with its rival neighbor, South Korea, in hopes to improve their sluggish economy and possibly open doors for trade with other countries in the future. The ethnic makeup of the country is mostly Korean but also include Chinese and Japanese.
With China bordering North Korea, a small population of Chinese throughout the years blended with the Koreans. The Japanese made their way to North Korea during the occupation of Japan between the years of 1910 to 1945 where at the end of World War II, Korea split into two. The North aided and converted to communism by the Soviet Union and the South U. S. supported and converted to Democracy. The main language spoken throughout the country is Korean. In some areas, a different dialect of Korean is spoken. Religion in North Korea has changed throughout the years.
Personality Cult of Kim Il Sung is the state sponsored and practiced religion of the country. However, the country is traditionally Buddhist with other religions quietly practiced. The other religious groups in the country are Buddhist, Protestant, Catholic, and native Chondogyo adherents. Information distributed across the country is very limited and controlled by the government. All televised programs are state ran and support the Korea Workers Party agenda. There is a ban on all foreign radio signals and only state ran radio broadcasting are available.
Only a small percentage of radios and televisions are in private households. Most are in government facilities. Due to the control of media by the government, there are only 11 television stations, about 24 FM radio stations, and eight shortwave stations. Citizens must rely on newspapers to receive any information throughout the country. North Korea has a main news agency that publishes newspaper prints, Korean Central News, Photographic News, and Korean Central Yearbook. Other smaller agencies publish their own newspapers and magazines as well.
Because of the media in control by the government, the country lacks in the sophistication of information and lacks any knowledge of the rest of the world. North Korea’s infrastructure has yet to recover from the end of the Korean War. Most of its roads are unpaved. A majority of North Korean’s do not have vehicles for transportation. The citizens have to rely on the railroad system that has been in place since the Japanese were in control. Airports in North Korea are in need of modernization. Of the 49 airports in service, only about 22 of them have paved runways.
Its ports also require to me modernized since only a couple of them would have capabilities to accept large ships out of the 12 it currently operates. Telecommunications, as mentioned earlier, is very limited and highly controlled. North Korea relies heavily on fossil fuels for energy such as oil, gas, and coal. The country has suffered a shortage of these fossil fuels from not being able to mine the needed coal to the diminished oil and gas it receives from China. It is currently trying to ratify the shortage of power by building multiple power plants throughout the country.
Technology wise, North Korea with its restricting government, not much advancement is apparent. Only one internet provider is available which grants access to roughly 1,000 websites that is under censorship and control by the state. Cell phones are also under this control as calls into the country or out of the country are impossible. North Korea lies in the most eastern portion of Asia just south of China. It borders with China to its north and South Korea to its south. To their East lies the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea to its West.
The country claims a military boundary that expands 50 nautical miles to the Sea of Japan and 200 nautical miles toward the Yellow Sea. Its landscape is made of mostly mountainous terrain, about 80% of its land to be exact. Most of the population is located in the country’s low laying land. There are three major rivers, plenty of hot springs, and volcanic land in the northern portion of the country. Because of its geographical location, North Korea experiences very few and minor earthquakes. The country experiences four seasons throughout the year.
In the winter, temperatures can be very cold especially in the north with averages of -13 degrees Celsius. During this time, expect to have about 30 days of snowfall. Summer months bring in hot humid weather with monsoon winds coming from the Pacific Ocean. Temperatures during this period get up to 29 degrees Celsius and more than half of rain comes during this season. Typhoons are of concern in the summer months. Spring and fall seems to be the ideal time of the year bringing in mild temperatures and mild winds. Considering time as far as planning any military action would be best to act during the winter months.
This is so because, North Korea oppressing their people as it is, famine seems to be a recurring issue, and with the cold from the winter with a lack of heating throughout the country, morale will diminish extremely. With a poor infrastructure in place, it is best to have a high OPTEMPO, destroy what little but vital infrastructures the country has, and ultimately crush the will of any combatant. Destroying major industrial plants will dramatically cut their supplies especially since their international recourses are little to none.
North Korea being a hostile nation towards the international community, it is important that we understand the different operational environments of the country so that nations may better understand and better plan any courses of action should conflict arise. Being that the country has a poor infrastructure and outdated equipment, some may believe a conflict would end quickly. However, it would be one that North Korean’s would give a tough fight with its very large military and various weapons of mass destruction. One must plan their strategy smartly to avoid as many losses of life and get the mission accomplished.