And Kim can’t match it.
In modern Korea’s relatively short history, amphibious warfare has played a key and pivotal role. The United Nations essentially liberated South Korea from invasion with a single amphibious stroke, and the country has maintained a large and powerful Marine Corps ever since. Now, a new generation of South Korean amphibious naval forces means the country can ponder taking the offensive during wartime, not only blunting an invasion but upending the Kim family’s dynastic hold on North Korea.
Korea’s peninsular nature means that the ocean is never far away from residents of both countries. It also means that armies fighting on the peninsula, friendly or not, run lines of communication and supply that are constantly in danger of being severed from the sea. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, well aware that the invading Korean People’s Army was reliant on increasingly tenuous supply lines as it inched south, planned and oversaw a successful amphibious assault at the port of Inchon. The result was an abrupt reversal of fortune for a KPA on the brink of victory, with the shattered remnants of Kim Il-sung’s army racing north to avoid entrapment and annihilation.
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Korea, just 160 miles wide and mountainous, doesn’t leave much room for maneuver—that is, unless you count the coastline: the North and South have more than three thousand miles of coastline combined. In any future Korean war, amphibious operations will help avoid costly wars of attrition, avoiding force-on-force fights to instead focus force on an enemy’s center of gravity—like Seoul or Pyongyang.