North Korea Has Lots of Submarines (But Just How Dangerous Are They?)

    Kyle Mizokami

    Security,

    They might be old, but they can kill/. 

    In 1998, a Yugo-class midget submarine, predecessor to the Yono class, was snared in the nets of a South Korean fishing boat and towed back to a naval base. Inside was a macabre sight: five submarine crewmen and four Reconnaissance Bureau agents, all dead of gunshot wounds. The crew had been murdered by the agents, who promptly committed suicide. The submarine was thought to have become entangled in the fishing boat’s net on its way back home to North Korea, after picking up a party of agents who had completed a mission ashore.

    North Korea should by all rights be a naval power. A country sitting on a peninsula, Korea has a long naval tradition, despite being a “shrimp” between the two “whales” of China and Japan. However, the partitioning of Korea into two countries in 1945 and the stated goal of unification —by force if necessary—lent the country to building up a large army, and reserving the navy for interdiction and special operations roles. Now, in the twenty-first century, the country’s navy is set to be the sea arm of a substantial nuclear deterrent.

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    The Korean People’s Navy (KPN) is believed to have approximately sixty thousand men under arms—less than one-twentieth that of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) ground forces. This, as well as comparable budget makes the KPN’s auxiliary role to the KPA. KPN draftees spend an average of five to ten years, so while Pyongyang’s sailors may not have the latest equipment, they do end up knowing their jobs quite well.

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