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Military of North Korea

North Korea now has the fourth-largest army in the world. The North has an estimated 1.2 million armed personnel, compared to about 650,000 in the South. Military spending equals 20%-25% of GNP, with about 20% of men ages 17-54 in the regular armed forces. North Korean forces have a substantial numerical advantage over the South (approximately 2 or 3 to 1) in several key categories of offensive weapons--tanks, long-range artillery, and armored personnel carriers.

The North has perhaps the world's second-largest special operations force (55,000), designed for insertion behind the lines in wartime. While the North has a relatively impressive fleet of submarines, its surface fleet has a very limited capability. Its air force has twice the number of aircraft as the South, but, except for a few advanced fighters, the North's air force is obsolete. The North--like the South--deploys the bulk of its forces well forward, along the DMZ. Several North Korean military tunnels under the DMZ were discovered in the 1970s.

In 1953, the Military Armistice Commission (MAC) was created to oversee and enforce the terms of the armistice. The Neutral Nation Supervisory Committee (NNSC)--originally made up of delegations from Poland and Czechoslovakia on the D.P.R.K-Chinese People's Volunteers side and Sweden and Switzerland on the United Nations side--monitors the activities of the MAC. In recent years, North Korea has sought to dismantle the MAC in a push for a new "peace mechanism" on the peninsula. In April 1994, it declared the MAC void and withdrew its representatives. Prior to this, it had effectively ended the functions of the NNSC.

Also over the last several years, North Korea has moved even more of its rear-echelon troops to hardened bunkers closer to the DMZ. Given the proximity of Seoul to the DMZ (some 25 miles), South Korean and United States forces are likely to have little warning of any attack. The United States and South Korea continue to believe that the U.S. troop presence remains an effective deterrent.

Military branches: Korean People's Army (includes Army, Navy, Air Force), Civil Security Forces

Military manpower - military age: 18 years of age

Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 5,853,635 (2000 est.)

Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 3,527,760 (2000 est.)

Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 178,931 (2000 est.)

Military expenditures - dollar figure: $3.7 billion to $4.9 billion (FY98 est.)

Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 25% to 33% (FY98 est.)

See also : North Korea