North Korea: The Foundation for Military Strength


October 1991


Precise information about North Korea's military is often scarce, usually dated, and occasionally distorted. However, an accurate evaluation of military capabilities is essential because of North Korea's strategic location, the magnitude of military forces on the peninsula, the country's belligerent policies, and the potential for a second Korean war.

Since its earliest days, North Korea actively has pursued a unique policy of self-reliance called chuche. This philosophy --- developed by Kim Il-song, the all-powerful leader of North Korea for over 40 years --- dictates independent political, economic, social, and military policies as much as possible, compelling North Korea to be one of the most closed societies in the world.

The perestroyka and glasnost policies that caused radical changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe remain practically unknown to the general populace in North Korea. The 1989 Thirteenth World Festival of Youth and Students, held in the capital city of Pyongyang in an attempt to counter the 1988 Seoul Olympics, allowed only a glimmer of light from the outside world as the government strictly controlled North Korean contacts with foreigners. Government-controlled media and security forces quickly and effectively repressed information about events such as the 1989 student demonstrations in China.