GlobalFirepower.com logo
Icon of military officer saluting
Icon of F-15 Eagle military combat fighter aircraft
Icon of AK-47 Assault Rifle
Icon of Abrams Main Battle Tank
Icon of navy warships
Icon of a dollar sign

Unified Korea Military Strength

A reunified Korea, and the military that would be built up from it, would most certainly tilt the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region of the world.

Unified Korea Military Strength

A reunified Korea, and the military that would be built up from it, would most certainly tilt the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region of the world.

(Version 1.1; Last Revision: 09/05/2018) - 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

Unified Korean National flag  Unified Korea (KOR)
Unified Korea would be ranked 6 (of 136) 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.
Small graph icon

Total Population
76,039,482

Small graph icon

Manpower Available
38,610,000

Small graph icon

Fit-for-Service
31,135,000

Small graph icon

Reaching Military Age
1,105,000


Total Military Personnel
12,274,750

Small graph icon

Active Personnel
250,000

Small graph icon

Reserve Personnel
70,000



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.

Air Power (Projected) - 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.
Small graph icon

Total Aircraft Strength
1,265

Small graph icon

Fighter Aircraft
500

Small graph icon

Attack Aircraft
500

Small graph icon

Transport Aircraft
400

Small graph icon

Trainer Aircraft
350

Small graph icon

Total Helicopter Strength
700

Small graph icon

Attack Helicopters
80



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".

Army Strength (Projected) - 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).
Small graph icon

Combat Tanks
1,500

Small graph icon

Armored Fighting Vehicles
4,400

Small graph icon

Self-Propelled Artillery
1,000

Small graph icon

Towed Artillery
2,500

Small graph icon

Rocket Projectors
2,000

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.

Navy Strength (Projected) - 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).
Small graph icon

Total Naval Assets
200

Small graph icon

Aircraft Carriers
1

Small graph icon

Frigates
16

Small graph icon

Destroyers
12

Small graph icon

Corvettes
16

Small graph icon

Submarines
20

Small graph icon

Patrol Craft
120

Small graph icon

Mine Warfare Vessels
10



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.

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.
Small graph icon

Production (bbl/dy)
600

Small graph icon

Consumption (bbl/dy)
4,650,000

Small graph icon

Proven Reserves (bbl)
0



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.
Small graph icon

Labor Force
41,250,000

Small graph icon

Merchant Marine Strength
800

Small graph icon

Major Ports / Terminals
16

Small graph icon

Roadway Coverage (km)
128,583

Small graph icon

Railway Coverage (km)
8,623

Small graph icon

Serivecable Airports
193



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 ($).
Small graph icon

Defense Budget
$40,000,000,000

Small graph icon

External Debt
$781,200,000,000

Small graph icon

Foreign Exchange / Gold
$400,000,000,000

Small graph icon

Purchasing Power Parity
$2,000,000,000,000



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.

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.
Small graph icon

Square Land Area (km)
220,258

Small graph icon

Coastline (km)
4,908

Small graph icon

Shared Borders (km)
1,844

Small graph icon

Waterways (km)
3,850