Numbering 200,000 men—and women—in trained in unconventional warfare, North Korea has the largest special forces organization in the world. To present an asymmetric threat to their enemies, Pyongyang’s commandos operate throughout the Korean Peninsula. Although their special forces has been maintained for decades, North Korea’s conventional forces have regressed since the Cold War due to outdated equipment and shortages in supplies. As a result of this long slide, the country has focused heavily on their special forces. Out of the 200,000 commandos, about 150,000 are light infantry units, making up eleven brigades. To mount rear attacks on enemy forces, their foot mobile and frontline mission is to infiltrate enemy lines. Tactics are possible because of their hilly terrain and network of tunnels. Another three brigades are special airborne infantry, and they operate similarly to the 82nd Airborne Division with their strategic operations, such as airborne drops. Unlike the division, however, the NKPA rarely operate at the battalion level or higher. In addition to these brigades, there are about 8 sniper brigades, and each consist of about 3,500 men. They are similar to U.S. Army Rangers and Navy SEALs, fulfilling a variety of roles.
Evolving to stage attacks in the enemy’s rear into ‘something more dangerous’, the country’s special forces have the ability to distribute nuclear, chemical, biological or radiological weapons that could potentially kill thousands. If this is successful, in the end, they can become a formidable adversary.