Military of South Korea

Military of South Korea

Infobox National Military
name= Republic of Korea Armed Forces
native_name= 대한민국 국군 (大韓民國 國軍)

caption= Logo of the Ministry of National Defense

founded= August 15, 1948
branches= nowrap| Republic of Korea Army
headquarters= Gyeryongdae
commander-in-chief= President of the Republic of Korea "ex officio"
commander-in-chief_title= Commander-in-Chief
minister= Lee Sang-hee
minister_title= Minister of National Defense
commander= General Kim Tae-young, ROKA
commander_title= Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
age= Mandatory 20 to 30 years of age for male, wartime conscription 18-49 years of age
conscription= 24-28 months depending on the branch
available= 12,483,677 (2005 est.)
fit= 10,115,817 (2005 est.)
reaching= 344,943 (2005 est.)
active= 687,000
ranked= 6th
reserve= 4,500,000
deployed= 2,500
amount= KRW 24.7 billion(As of 2007)
(Appx USD 25.5 billion)
percent_GDP= 2.5%
domestic_suppliers= KAI, Samsung Heavy Industries, Hanwha, ROTEM, Doosan Infracore, Hyundai Heavy Industries etc.
foreign_suppliers= Boeing, Lockheed Martin etc.
history= Military history of Korea
ranks= Military ranks of South Korea
Comparative military ranks of Korea

The Republic of Korea Armed Forces (hangul: 대한민국 국군; hanja: 大韓民國 國軍; Revised Romanization: "Dae-han-min-guk Guk-gun") or ROK Armed Forces, is the armed forces of South Korea. Along with the Republic of Korea Reserve Forces (대한민국 향토예비군; 大韓民國 鄕土豫備軍), it consists of the following branches:

* Republic of Korea Army (대한민국 육군; 大韓民國 陸軍)
* Republic of Korea Navy (대한민국 해군; 大韓民國 海軍)
** Republic of Korea Marine Corps (대한민국 해병대; 大韓民國 海兵隊)
* Republic of Korea Air Force (대한민국 공군; 大韓民國 空軍)

Created in 1948, following the division of the Korean Peninsula by occupying Soviet and U.S. forces, the Republic of Korea Armed Forces is one of the largest standing armed forces in the world with a reported personnel strength of 5,187,000 in 2006 (687,000 active force and 4,500,000 regular reserve).cite news|title=South Korea's Armed Forces, CSIS (Page 24) |date=2006-07-25|url=]

The ROK military forces are responsible for maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the republic, but often engage in humanitarian and disaster-relief efforts nation wide. More recently the ROK military has began increasing its participation in international affairs, acknowledging its role and responsibility as the tenth economic power in the world in terms of GDP. The ROK military has participated in various peacekeeping operations across Africa, East Timor, and more recently Iraq and Afghanistan.


The South Korean armed forces were a largely rudimentary force until the outbreak of the Korean War. It was heavily damaged by North Korean and Chinese attacks and in the beginning relied almost entirely on American support for weapons, ammunition and technology. During South Korea's period of rapid growth, the military expanded accordingly, benefiting from several government-sponsored technology transfer projects and indigenous defense capability initiatives. Modernization efforts for the ROK military have been in place since the 1980s. The website states that "in 1990 South Korean industries provided about 70 percent of the weapons, ammunition, communications and other types of equipment, vehicles, clothing, and other supplies needed by the military." Today, the South Korean armed forces enjoys of a good mix of avant-garde as well as older conventional weapons.

The Republic of Korea has one of the highest defense budgets in the world, regularly making the list of top ten (see List of countries by military expenditures). Its capabilities include many sophisticated American and European weapon systems, complemented by a growing and increasingly more advanced indigenous defense manufacturing sector. For example, by taking advantage of the strong local shipbuilding industry, the ROK Navy has embarked on a rigorous modernization plan with ambitions to become a blue-water navy by 2020.

South Korea has a joint military partnership with the United States as outlined by the Mutual Defense Treaty signed after the Korean War. During the outbreak of the Vietnam War, South Korean Marines were among those fighting alongside South Vietnam and the United States. More recently, South Korea also takes part in regional as well as pan-Pacific national military wargames and exercises such as RIMPAC and RSOI.


National Command Authority

The President is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces ex officio. The military authority runs from the President to the Minister of Defense, who is commonly (but not legally bound to be) a retired 4-star General or Admiral.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a 4-star General or Admiral, is the Senior Officer of the Armed Forces and has the Operational Authority over the Armed Forces, with directions from the President through the Minister of Defense. Traditionally (with one exception), the position is filled by an officer of the Army. The chain of Operational Authority runs straight from the Chairmsan of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Commandants of the several Operational Command. Currently there are 5 Operational Commands in the Army, 2 in the Navy (including the Marine Corps) and 1 in the Air Force.

The respective Chiefs of Staff of each Service Branch (Army, Navy, Air Force) has administrative control over his or her own service. Each Chief of Staff is also a standing member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Joint Chiefs of Staff

Headquarters Republic of Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff (Hangul: 대한민국 합동참모본부, Hanja: 大韓民國 合同參謀本部) is a group of Chiefs from each major branch of the armed services in the Republic of Korea Armed Forces. Unlike his/her United States counterpart, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has Operational Control over all military personnel of the Armed Forces.

All regular members are 4-star Generals or Admirals, though the Vice Chairman has been 3-star Officers intermittently.

enior Leadership

*Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: General Kim Tae-young, ROKA
*Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: Lieutenant General Lee Gye-hoon, ROKAF
*Chief of Staff of the Republic of Korea Army: General Lim Choung-bin, ROKA
*Chief of Naval Operations of the Republic of Korea Navy: Admiral Jung Ok-keun, ROKN
*Chief of Staff of the Republic of Korea Air Force: General Kim Eun-gi, ROKAF
*Commandant of the Republic of Korea Marine Corps: Lieutenant General Lee Hong-hee, ROKMC
*Deputy Commander, ROK-US Combined Forces Command: General Lee Sung-chul, ROKA


The ROK Army (ROKA)--the fourth largest army in the world--is by far the largest of the military branches, with over 560,000 effectives as of 2004. This comes as a response to both the mountainous terrain native to the Korean Peninsula (70% mountainous) as well as the heavy North Korean presence, with its 1 million strong army, two-thirds of which is permanently garrisoned in the frontline near the DMZ.

It should be noted that the current administration has initiated a program of self-defense, where by South Korea would be able to fully counter the North Korean threat with purely domestic means within the next two decades.

The ROK Army was formerly organized into 3 armies: the First Army (FROKA), Second Army (SROKA), and Third Army (TROKA), each with its own head quarters, corps, and divisions. The Third Army was responsible for the defense of the capital as well as the western section of the DMZ. The First Army was responsible for the defense of the eastern section of the DMZ where as the SROKA formed the rearguard.

Under a restructuring plan aimed at reducing redundancy, the First and Third Armies will be incorporated into the newly formed First Operations Command, where as the Second ROK Army has been converted into the Second Operations Command.

The army consists of the Army Headquarters, the Aviation Command, and the Special Warfare Command, with 11 corps, 49 divisions, and 19 brigades, some 560,000 troops and estimatedas many as 5,850 Tanks/Armored Vehicles, 11,337 Artillery Systems, 7,032 Missile Defense Systems and 13,000 infantry support systems Tanks of the ROK Army include the older M48A5, T-80U as well as the more recent K1 and K1A1 which bear a 120 mm smoothbore gun and are of local manufacture. The ROK Army has 2,872 tanks, including 1,524 K1 and K1A1 tanks.

The future replacement for the K1 MBT has been baptized the XK2 Black Panther (Korean: 흑표), which will be fitted with a 1,500hp Water-cooled Diesel engine, 120 mm / L55 main gun, and coaxial machine guns. The new tank will also feature radar equipment as well as all-bearing LASER detection system and reactive armor comparable to the American M1A2 and French Leclerc.

In addition South Korea already manufactures the indigenous K-9 Thunder howitzers, which have been exported to Turkey, as well as the K200 series KIFV's which saw action in UN peacekeeping operations as part of the Malaysian peacekeeping forces. A variation of the K200, the KAFV's can be retrofitted to bear a 90 mm barrel or 40 mm grenade turret or M230-1 Chain gun or MK-30 30mm chain gun Turret.

Also a replacement for the South Korean K200 series infantry fighting vehicles are currently being tested, designated as K21 (Korea Next-generation Infantry Fighting Vehicle). The initial production is set for 2008, with the ROKA planning to field approximately 1,000 units until 2015.

The K21 KNIFV's chassis will be constructed entirely out of fiberglass, reducing the vehicle's load and enabling it to travel at higher speeds without bulky and powerful engines. When constructed, the NIFV will be lighter than other IFVs, including the American Bradley series and Russian BMP series, increasing both speed and payload.

The ROK Army also fields the mobile K-SAM Pegasus (Korean:천마), fitted with 8 missiles that fly at maximum speeds of mach 2.6, and the K-30 Biho (Korean:비호) series, which feature a 30 mm twin gun system for self-propelled anti-aerial fire support.

Besides having vehicles of their own design as well as American models, the ROK Army also has several Russian-built AFVs, including BMP-3 IFVs and T-80U MBTs. Although they are in active service with the Army, most of them were purchased in order to experiment their technology to be fitted with the ROK's XK2 MBT, such as the Explosive Reactive Armor blocks mounted on several Russian armored vehicles. However, the ROK Army is continuing their purchase of Russian equipments, as their recent addition of two BMP-3U IFVs hints. Other notable foreign equipment in service with the ROK Army includes the TOW ATGM launchers and Mistral MANPADS.


The ROK Navy (ROKN) is the armed forces branch responsible for conducting naval operations and amphibious landing operations. [ [ "Duty of the ROK Navy"] . Republic of Korea Navy Official Website. Retrieved March 10, 2007.] As a part of its mission, the ROK Navy has engaged in several peacekeeping operations since the turn of the century. [ [
] . Ministry of National Defense Official Website. Retrieved March 4, 2007.

The ROK Navy includes the Republic of Korea Navy Headquarters, Republic of Korea Fleet, and Republic of Korea Marine Corps, which is a quasi-autonomous organization. The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) is the highest-ranking officer (four-star admiral) of the ROK Navy.

The ROK Navy had about 68,000 regular personnel including the 27,000 Republic of Korea Marine Corps personnel as of 2006. There are some 170 commissioned ships (total displacement of approx. 153,000 tons [ [ "Defense of Japan 2008"] . Ministry of Defense Official Website. Retrieved September 16, 2008.] ) in the ROK Navy, including approximately 10 submarines, 80 patrol craft and 20 auxiliaries as of October 2007. The naval aviation forces consist of about 10 fixed-wing and 50 rotary-wing aircraft. The Marine Corps operates about 400 tracked vehicles including self-propelled artillery. [ [ "2006 국방백서"] . Ministry of National Defense Official Website. Retrieved March 11, 2007.]

In 1995, Admiral An Pyongtae, the 20th Chief of Naval Operations, presented the vision of building a "blue ocean navy" for the future of the ROK Navy in his inaugural address. [ [ "21세기 통일한국의 大洋해군 전략"] . Retrieved March 8, 2007.] In 2001, then President Kim Dae-jung announced a plan for building up a Strategic Mobile Fleet. [ [
] . Kim Dae-jung Presidential Library Official Website. Retrieved March 12, 2007.
] As a part of "Defense Reform 2020," which was proposed by the Roh Moo-hyun Administration, the ROK Navy is required to reform the organizations under Commander-in-Chief Republic of Korea Fleet (CINCROKFLT) by upgrading a submarine operations command (to fleet submarine force), a naval aviation operations command (to fleet air arm), and by establishing some Mobile Flotillas. [ [ "2006 국방백서"] . Ministry of National Defense Official Website. Retrieved March 11, 2007.] The ROK Navy aims to become a blue-water navy by 2020. [ [ "대양해군건설"] . Republic of Korea Navy Official Website. Retrieved March 4, 2007.]

In the first decade of the 21st century, the ROK Navy launched the lead ships of newly developed types: in 2002, ROKS "Chungmugong Yi Sunshin" (DDH 975), a 4,500-ton destroyer, was launched; in 2005, the 14,000-ton amphibious landing ship, ROKS "Dokdo" (LPH 6111) was launched; in 2006, the ROK Navy launched the "Sohn Won-yil" (SS 072), an 1,800-ton Type 214 submarine with Air-Independent propulsion (AIP) system. In 2007, the ROK Navy launched the lead ship (DDG 991) of the "King Sejong the Great" class destroyer, built around the Aegis combat system and the SPY-1D multi-function phased array radar. The ROK Navy is undertaking several shipbuilding projects: Korean Destroyer Experimental (KDX) program, Frigate Experimental (FFX), Landing Platform Experimental (LPX), Patrol Killer Experimental (PKX), and Korean Submarine (KSS) program.

The ROK Navy announced to host its second international fleet review off coast of Busan in October 2008.

Air Force

The ROK Air Force (ROKAF) is a modern air force, which fields some 600+ combat aircraft of American design. In contrast, the North Korean Army has roughly 150-300 more aircraft, but mostly obsolete types of Soviet and Chinese origin.

Korea began a program for the development of indigenous jet trainers beginning in 1997. This project eventually culminated in the KAI T-50, dubbed the "Golden Eagle" which is used as a trainer for jet pilots, now being exported to Indonesia. An armed version of the T-50 is the modified A-50, which can be fitted with free-fall or precision missiles such as the AGM-65 Maverick.

South Korea maintains a modern air force in order to defend itself from various modes of threats, including the North Korean Army, which fields about twice as many aircraft (of mostly obsolescent types). As of 2007, it operated more than 180 KF-16C/Ds, 234 F-5A/B/E/Fs, 130 F-4D/Es, 32 F-15Ks with the rest of the 29 F-15Ks being delivered by June 2010,and a number of South Korean made KAI A-50s among its combat aircraft. The Korean variant of F-15E were named F-15K "Slam Eagles". South Korea became one of the world's few aircraft exporters when it exported 19 KT-1B indigenous training aircraft to Indonesia in 2003. Korean Aerospace Industries, the South Korean national aerospace company, has plans to export more KT-1 and T-50 Golden Eagle Supersonic trainer aircraft.

The Republic of Korea Air Force also expressed interests in acquiring the RQ-4 Global Hawk and Joint Direct Attack Munition kits to further improve their intelligence and offensive capabilities.

The replacement programs for the T-50 and A-50 are the KTX-2 and F-X, respectively. The latter has been fulfilled by the Boeing F-15K. [cite press release
title = Boeing F-15K Selected by the Republic of Korea as F-X Fighter
publisher = Boeing
date = 2002-04-19
url =
accessdate = 2007-03-02

The South Korean government also announced its plan to develop indigenous helicopter manufacturing capacities to replace the aging UH-1 helicopters, many of which had seen service during the Vietnam War. The program originally included plans for the development of both a civilian and a military helicopter. This was later revised and gave priority to the utility helicopter program. Based on the success and experience of the civilian KMH (Korean Multi-purpose Helicopter) the attack helicopter, which would share a common configuration, will be developed.

Marine Corps

Although the National Armed Forces Organisation Act stipulates that the ROK Navy includes the Republic of Korea Marine Corps, the ROKMC is a semi-autonomous organization that carries out much of its functions independently. [ [ "해병대 조직"] . Republic of Korea Marine Corps Official Website. Retrieved March 26, 2007.] During the Korean War, the ROKMC earned their nickname as "귀신잡는 해병대" (Ghost-Catching Marines). [ [ "해병대관련표어"] . Republic of Korea Marine Corps Official Website. Retrieved September 12, 2007.] South Korean Marines are known to be courageous from the Vietnam War, to an extent that some sources say the Viet Cong shunned combat with them. They are taught extensive martial arts.

The motto of the ROK Marine Corps is "한번 해병은 영원한 해병" (Once a Marine, Always a Marine).


Military service is mentioned as one of the Four Constitutional Duties (along with taxes, education, and labor) for all citizens. The current effective Conscription Law, however, applies only to males although women can volunteer as officers. Military service varies according to branch: 22 months for the Army and Marine Corps, 24 months for the Navy and 26 months for the Air Force. Recently, however, there has been significant pressure from the public demanding either a shortening of the term or a switch to voluntary military service.

In the Republic of Korea Armed Forces, ranks fall into one of four categories: commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer, and enlisted, in decreasing order of authority. Commissioned officer ranks are further subdivided into "Janggwan"-level officers, "Yeonggawan"-level officers, and "Wigwan"-level officers. The "Wonsu" is appointed from the "Daejang" who has distinguished achievements. However, there has been no one holding the rank of "Wonsu" in the history of the ROK Armed Forces. All branches share a common rank-system, with different colors used to denote the different branches (Army: Green & Black, Navy: White & Black, Marine Corps: Red & Yellow, Air Force: Green & Blue).

Note: The English titles are given as comparative examples with the US Army ranks.

Overseas operations

About 2,500 soldiers operate in eight locations around the world as of 2007. [cite news
title = Snapshot on S. Korean troops operating overseas
url =
work = Yonhap
date = 2007-02-27
accessdate = 2007-03-02

UN peacekeeping operations

Until now South Korea has successfully participated in UN-sanctioned peacekeeping operations in East Timor, Somalia, Angola, and Western Sahara, as well as serving as Military Observers in the India-Pakistan border and in Georgia.

In September 2006, President Roh Moo-hyun announced that the government of Lebanon had officially asked the Republic of Korea to form part of the UN Peacekeeping Forces about to be deployed in Lebanon following the 2006 Israeli-Lebanese Conflict. Final deployment will be pending on a vote by the Kukhoe (National Assembly).

Peace-keeping operations in Iraq

On August, 2004, the South Korean government dispatched 3,400 soldiers to Iraq following American requests for reinforcements and further fueled by the beheading of South Korean citizen Kim Sun-il by Islamic extremists in Iraq. This force became third in size (surpassed only by the US and UK), after the withdrawal of Spanish forces. South Korea is currently responsible for peace-keeping and reconstruction in the Arbil Governorate, located in the Kurdish Autonomous Region. The peace-keeping troops were named Zaytun Division and Daiman Unit. Zaytun and Daiman respectively mean olive (a symbol of peace) and 'always with you' in Arabic.

Reconstruction in Afghanistan

At the request of the United States, about 60 medics from the Dongui Medical Unit (hangul: 동의부대, hanja: 東醫部隊) and 150 engineers from the Dasan Engineering Unit (hangul: 다산부대, hanja: 茶山部隊) have been stationed in Afghanistan since 2002 to help with the reconstruction effort. [cite news
first = Dae-woong
last = Jin
title = Korea vows to stay the course in Afghanistan
url =
work = The Korea Herald
date = 2007-03-01
accessdate= 2007-03-02
] Among the soldiers stationed in Afghanistan was Yoon Jang-ho, who was the first South Korean soldier killed in action overseas since the Vietnam War.


ee also

*Republic of Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff
*List of Korea-related topics
*South Korea
*Military of North Korea
*KATUSA (Korean Augmentation to US Army)
*United States Forces Korea (USFK)
*List of military equipment of Republic of Korea
*Order of Military Merit (Korea)

External links

* [ Republic of Korea Military Guide (]
* Republic of Korea Ministry of National Defense (ROKMND) ( [ Korean] / [ English] )
* Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) website ( [ English] )

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