October 1991

Chapter 6


Korean War Experiance

North Korea's experience during the Korean war continues to influence the Army's current organization, tactics, and military doctrine.

Since the war, North Korea has sought to make its territory impregnable to enemy attack. Pyongyang initiated a program in the 1960s to place the majority of important arms industries and other military installations underground to make them virtually invulnerable to allied air attack. North Korea also has strengthened its reserve forces by reorganizing and acquiring large numbers of artillery and antitank weapons. These enhanced capabilities to defend the rear area would allow Pyongyang to use all its regular ground force units in offensive operations against South Korea.

Offensive Operations

The basic goal of North Korea's offensive military strategy is to consolidate and control strategic areas of South Korea and quickly destroy the allied defense before the United States can provide significant military reinforcement. North Korea has concentrated troops, self-propelled artillery, and logistic supplies in the forward area between Pyongyang and the Demilitarized Zone. At the onset of hostilities, artillery units would launch massive preparatory fires at South Korean defensive fortifications and along the major routes of advance. The Air Force would strike selected ground targets, such as enemy airfields, supply points, and some ground force units. Although the Air Force does not perform close air support for ground force units in contact with the enemy, it would strike high-value targets and selected tactical terrain prior to offensive operations. North Korean infantry and armor elements of the first-echelon divisions of the forward conventional corps would attempt to penetrate the allied forward defense. The mechanized corps, brigades augmented with attached self-propelled artillery, and combat support elements would attempt to pass through any openings the frontline corps create. The mechanized corps quickly would penetrate deep into South Korea, bypassing and possibly isolating many allied units.

North Korean airborne and sniper units would support the penetration as units from the rear corps reinforce the forward corps' offensive operations to link with successful North Korean penetration forces. The mechanized forces would continue toward Seoul and other key military objectives with amphibious vehicles and river-crossing units to bridge the Imjin River to the northwest of Seoul. North Korean forces would attempt to turn the flanks and encircle the South's divisions deployed to the north of Seoul. Successfully enveloping Seoul would destroy the majority of South Korean ground force units and leave the entire country extremely vulnerable to the remaining North Korean mechanized and armored forces.

The Navy's capabilities to conduct amphibious landings have improved significantly as a result of indigenously producing various types of support and landing craft. The Army has specially trained amphibious Special Operations Forces brigades; one probably is on each coast. North Korea may use these forces to secure the northern islands and strategically important areas, such as the Kimpo Peninsula. In addition, it would want to use these forces to secure the flanks of frontline corps moving to isolate Seoul.

During amphibious landings, the Navy would support ground forces by providing shore bombardment and logistic resupply. North Korea has a limited capability to provide support troops on shore. Therefore, it would have to curtail naval support to the ground forces soon after landing.

The Navy and the Air Force could act in a strong supporting role in the initial stage of an offensive. The level of sustained offensive operations would depend on the size and composition of US air and naval force augmentation. If confronted by strong forces, the North Korean air and naval forces would revert to largely defensive roles.