(Version 1.0; Last Revision: 01/15/2018) - The reader may live long enough to see a reunification of the Koreas - North and South Korea - and, should this monumental event come to pass, it would mean a complex rebuilding of its fighting forces. This article has been written to better assess what the military power of Korea would/could look like, taking into account both known and unknown factors. As such, the article uses both assumptions and speculation to reach some of the answers that would arise from this vast undertaking and the reunification model used to bring about a unified Germany (from the remnants of East and West Germany) together in 1990 is also relied upon.
It is assumed that most of North Korea's existing military structure would be done away with as its roots are buried deep in the old Soviet-era structure. In its place, the South Korean structure would most likely take hold, effectively 'westernizing' the reunified Korean inventory to the fullest extent. Much of what is seen in the current North Korean Army, Navy and Air Force services consist of aging equipment and, for the sake of logistics and other reasons, a single-minded approach to bringing about a new national military would be in order.
South Korea also has the advantage of having the more robust, mature globally-minded economy and its military support, bolstered in part by the United States, steers it in a certain direction. As its own standalone military within the GFP sphere, South Korea sits just outside of the top ten nations (ranked 12th) and North Korea's standing is 23rd after Australia however, beyond the numbers, the North lacks many of the capabilities often seen in a modern fighting force - its concentration is mainly (and basically) manpower, armor, artillery and a ballistic missile program.
At the end of the day, the military power of a unified Korea would be something of a mix between two first-rate powers - Britain and Japan. The UK holds a GFP ranking of #6 while Japan is right behind at #7.A unified Korea could very well place in the top ten by our measure - ahead of Turkey, Germany and Egypt.
6 Korea (Unified) (KOR)Korea (Unified) would be ranked 6 (of 133) countries considered for the annual GFP review. It would hold a PwrIndx rating of 0.2077. (0.0000 being perfect)
Manpower (Projected) - Going beyond military equipment totals and perceived fighting strength is the actual manpower that drives a given military force. Wars of attrition traditionally favor those with more manpower to a given effort.
Because the North and South would no longer be building up material and manpower to contend with one another, its military would undertake a broad restructuring and inevitable downsizing - its primary regional threat would come from neighboring China. Most of the North's aircraft inventory would be sold off or scrapped and the new air force would revolve around the Western-minded South Korean approach made up largely of American-originated designs with the exception of a few locally-generated types.
Reaching Military Age1,105,000
Total Military Personnel
Air Power (Projected)
The land force of the South would inherit a vast collection of tanks, Armored Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) and artillery from the North but, it is assumed, many of these examples would be done away with through sale to a foreign buyer or simply sent to the scrap heap. Even the South's large collection of tanks, Self-Propelled Guns (SPGs), artillery and rocket-projecting vehicles (MLRSs) would eventually be reduced some for budgetary reasons - putting its ground fighting strength more in line with neighboring Japan. There would be issue of integration of the North's million+ man army into the South's ranks, but, on the whole, numbers would most likely be decreased overall within a unified Korea to better reflect a defensive-minded "protection force".
- Includes both fixed-wing
and rotary-wing (helicopter)
aircraft from all branches of service (Air Force, Navy, Army). Air power is just one important component of the modern military force. Attack Aircraft represents fixed-wing and dedicated forms as well as light strike types (some basic and advanced trainers fill this role). Some fighters can double as attack types and vice versa - this is how multi-role aircraft can be of considerable value. Transport and Trainer aircraft include both fixed-wing and rotary-wing types.
Army Strength (Projected)
Most warships and submarines of the North would be retired and scrapped to make room for the more modern surface and undersea vessels of the South.
- Tank value includes Main Battle Tanks (MBTs)
and light tanks (a few remain in service) as well as those vehicles considered "tank destroyers". There is no distinction made between all-wheel and track-and-wheel designs. Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV) value includes Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs)
as well as Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs).
Navy Strength (Projected)
Oil consumption would be sharply increased as the North would have to be brought in line with the South's more advanced infrastructure and there would be a rise in need of public transportation and services such as delivery (of goods and supplies). Neither country has a robust oil-producing network which would inevitably lead to a drastic increase oil importation to bring the North up to speed with the modern world.
- Aircraft Carrier
value includes both traditional aircraft carriers as well as "helicopter carrier" warships (the latter growing in popularity worldwide). Cruisers are no longer tracked due to their declining value on the world stage. Submarines value includes both diesel-electric and nuclear-powered types. Total Naval Assets is not simply a sum of the presented navy ship categories - instead it includes all showcased types along with any known / recognized auxiliary vessels (not tracked individually by this site).
Natural Resources (Petroleum) (Projected) - As much as any weapon system is vital to an ongoing military campaign, wars still rely on the availability of natural resources, namely petroluem (oil). BBL/DY = Barrels Per Day.
Logistics (Projected) - War is as much a battle of logistics, moving man and machine from-to points all over, as it is direct combat. A quantitative/robust Labor Force also adds to available wartime industry.
Finance (Projected) - War goes beyond simple physical "strength-in-numbers", relying heavily on financing and effort as much as any one piece of hardware fielded. All values presented in USD ($).
Clearer changes to consider in a reunification of the North and South would include slightly redrawn Shared Borders but the shared portion in the extreme of the North, bordering both and China - to a lesser extent - Russia, would remain intact. Roadways and railways might seen an increase if the North requires revised infrastructure to facilitate travel and transport. Square Land Area, Coastline and Waterway totals would be relatively easily combined during reunification.
Foreign Exchange / Gold$400,000,000,000
Purchasing Power Parity$2,000,000,000,000
Geography - Geographical values primarily figure into a defensive-minded war (i.e. invasion) but can also aid a nation when responding to such an act.
Sources: CIA.gov, CIA World Factbook, wikipedia.com, public domain print and media sources and user contributions. Some values may be estimated when official sources are lacking.
The values showcased above are all considered for the final GFP ranking recognized as the "Power Index" (abbrv: "PwrIndx"). PwrIndx scores are judged against a perfect value of "0.0000" which is realistically unattainable due to the number of factors considered per country. Balance is the key - a large, strong fighting force across land, sea and air backed by a resilient economy and defensible territory along with an efficient infrastructure - such qualities are those used to round out a particular nation's total fighting strength on paper; it is not enough to field 10 million men or 20,000 tanks or lead the world in oil production.
Each nation's final ranking also carries with it bonuses and penalties as needed while landlocked countries (ex: Austria) are not penalized for lack of a standing navy - though they do suffer a penalty for not maintaining a viable merchant marine force.
It bears repeating that nuclear weapons are NOT taken into account for this listing. Powers are based on conventional weaponry in inventory as well as other factors such as economic strength, border size, self-sustainability (in regards to wartime resources such as oil), water access etc...