The North Korean military, officially called the Korean People's Army, consists of ground forces, a navy and an air force. North Korea devotes a large portion of its budget to military spending to compete with neighboring South Korea. A chart by the Congressional Research Service documents dozens of incidents involving political or military conflict between North Korea and South Korea from 1958 to 2010.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a global organization that measures military strength, said in its Military Balance 2011 report that North Korea has 1.19 million people on active duty, including 1 million in the army, 110,000 in the air force and 60,000 in the navy. In addition, the institute said, the military has 600,000 reservists and 189,000 active paramilitary troops. In its profile on North Korea, BBC News said that the North Korean military, although large in size, has low standards of training, discipline and equipment.
Military Service Age
The CIA World Factbook said that 18 was the "presumed" age, as of 2012, that the government begins recruiting citizens for compulsory military service. Likewise, the CIA believes voluntary recruits are eligible for military service when they are 16 or 17 years old. The CIA estimated in 2010 that North Korea had almost 13 million potential military recruits between the ages of 16 and 49, including both males and females.
Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
Korea was divided in half after the Korean War (1950-1953). South Korea and North Korea established their borders and both immediately built the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to provide a strong military presence against each other. The DMZ stretches for 2 kilometers on each side of the border. This land between North Korea and South Korea is the most militarized border in the world. Despite the hostilities between North and South Korea, the DMZ has become a major tourist attraction that allows sightseers in South Korea access to a military base, an observatory and even a North Korean infiltration tunnel.
The North Korean military has conducted three underground nuclear tests since 2006. Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear expert with Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation, estimates that the North Korean military has enough weaponized plutonium for up to eight nuclear bombs. The CIA World Factbook called the North Korean military a “major concern to the international community” because of its nuclear testing, long-range missile development and history of regional military provocations.
- Congressional Research Service : Incidents Between North and South Korea
- The Guardian: North Korea: 10 Facts About One of the World's Most Secretive States
- Korea Tourism Organization: Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) Tours
- CIA World Factbook: North Korea
- BBC News: North Korea Profile
- Nautilus Institute: A Return Trip to North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Complex
- Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images