N. Korea forces now "no match" for S. Korea?

From the fourth paragraph of this recent op/ed in USA Today: http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2010/03/column-should-us-keep-first-use-option-.html

“…As for North Korea, its once formidable army is no match for the sophisticated South Korean forces that have been developed with U.S. help in recent decades.”

Really? I thought the NK military could roll over SK just about any time they wanted to, where it not for US nuclear weapons guarantees to SK. Despite a seriously weird Dear Leader, famine, economic breakdown, etc., I’d understood that the NK forces were still pretty damned tough.

There is no doubt that North Korean artillery would hurt the South very much, there is no chance that the North could prevail. South Korea has modernized it’s forces, and the North can’t. I wouldn’t be surprised if in 5 or 10 years the South would be capable of rolling through the North in somewhat the same way the US overran Iraq.

Ok, that’s hyperbole, but you get my point.

The Korean People’s Army (KPA)is about 1.2 million soldiers, another 4 million reserves with a budget of $6 billion a year.

The Republic of Korea Armed Forces (ROK) is about 600,000 soldiers and 3.5 million reserves with a budget of $28 million a year.

IOW, the North Koreans have a larger army but would still be fighting a pretty big army, better fed, better equiped army that spends over 4x as much per year on training, weapons, food, equipment and backed by American firepower.

Last time I heard, the average S. Korean soldier had a few inches and about 20 or 40 pounds over their N. Korean counterparts. I can’t cite a reliable source for that so maybe it’s baloney.


This is about the general population in both countries. While height and weight might not count as much as it did in the age of sword and spear, it says something about the N. Korean’s ability to feed their people and their military.

Don’t forget morale, either. Saddam’s Iraqi army scared the shit out of a lot of people until they surrendered wholesale - even while “defending” their own country. How hard could you expect the NK army to fight if it came to that?

The statement in the OP is way too conclusive, though, obviously.

I think you mean $28 billion a year for South Korea.

Yes, that’s correct.

The big question: if South Korea invaded, would the Peoples’ Army stand & fight, or break & run?

My guess is #2.

If the Korea’s go to war 1) S. Korea would almost certainly win an easy and total military victory 2) life for the average S. Korean would get much much worse and life for the average N. Korean would get much much better, since the war would destroy Seoul (home to half the countries inhabitants and I assume the source of atleast that much of its GDP) and leave S. Korea in charge of 15 million chronically abused, brain-washed, malnourished and poorly educated N. Koreans.

So given point 2, its sort of debatable who would “win” a second Korean war.

I can’t think of any reason that the South Korean’s would unilaterally invade the North, so I doubt it would happen. My guess is that they would invade only after being invaded themselves (sort of like what happened in the Korean War…though probably without the Russians or Chinese giving the North significant help this time around), so they would be chasing a shattered, demoralized and logistically cut off retreating force back into the North.

So…my guess is that they would have already been broken and running. Some might stand and fight, but I doubt there would be substantial resistance once it got to that point.

Of course, what would the South win? A broken, devastated and dysfunctional country that would make East Germany look like an economic powerhouse when it reunited with the West. South Korea would be hard pressed to FEED all the people in the North, once the fighting stopped, and it would take them decades to reintegrate the shattered and fucked up north back into a unified whole.



A perhaps unknowable quantity would be the extent of North Korean infiltration and sabotage. I would presume that the first 48 hours of a sudden attack by the North would include a considerable amount of chaos as formerly trustworthy people in key positions suddenly screamed out their love for their Dear Leader.

Would a military incident on the Korean peninsula be isolated? Or would there be involvement of China, Russia and/or the US in the hours/days/weeks following the start?

Chinese involvement would depend on the context of the conflict. If, for some unknown and highly unlikely reason, South Korea went mad and invaded the North, then I’d say that China would become involved to some degree. If, more likely, North Korea decided to unilaterally (and against China’s wishes) invade the South, then my guess is that China would limit itself to a mediator type role at most…and possibly simply close it’s borders (a vitally important point, considering the history there for the last few decades) and wash it’s hands of the whole mess. Possibly they may actually strike at the North if they were afraid the North might use it’s nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula (which would have an effect on China as well).

Russia I don’t see doing anything at all…they are, for all intents and purposes, out of the game at this point. As for the US, it would probably depend on the context, but assuming a North Korean attack, then I’d say we’d be in it right away, regardless…that’s what the troops on the DMZ are for, after all. And we’d probably be moving in reinforcements as quickly as we could assemble and stage them, and striking targets in North Korea using the Navy and any Air Force assets we could get into position almost immediately.


The latter. Definitely the latter. Within hours. Nobody would side help Chairman Kim. The Chinese in particular would want his head delivered on a sliver platter.

If you’re talking armed forces-NK versus armed forces-SK, there really is potential for a good match up. I don’t think either country would just have a cake walk.

The real problem when you discuss this is Seoul. The capital city has over 10 million in the city and about another 14 million in the metro area for 24 million total. Seoul lies around 30 miles from the border. This is a huge issue having that many civilians in a dense place so close to a hostile border.

No one worries if it was just the armed forces facing off, the real worry is what the North Koreans could do the city of Seoul, through missiles and the like

The potential for a massive amount of destruction is enourmous

While this is true, I’ve no doubt that, should the Koreas reunite in a war or an economic collapse, Seoul would be the controlling party, and the U.S. would throw money and logistical support at them like it was chocolate Easter Bunnies.

You’re forgetting one item: the 9,000,000,000,000,000,000 in reserves just a stone’s throw behind the North Korean barracks. You know – the dudes with the largest industrial capacity, the most oil, the most resources and the most sophisticated weaponry in the world?

largest industrial capacity = U.S.
most oil = either Russia or Saudi Arabia
most resources = either Canada, Australia or U.S.
most sophisticated weaponry = U.S.

It’s not the 1950’s anymore. China could probably manage to live with a Korean unification; they might even be thankful for it. There’s no indication that China is crazy about Kim, or the next Kim.

China would in a Second Korean War intervene in favour of the Republic of Korea but only so they can occupy a part of North Korea to turn into a buffer zone/puppet state-something like what happens in the video game Mercenearies .