North Korea invade South Korea?…not likely and they’ll lose

The Vuurwapen Blog links to a fascinating article about the ability of North Korea to make good on their promise to turn Seoul into a sea of fire.

In short the prospects aren’t great. The report is highly technical but really fascinating.

Three Primary Factors

  1. Range – Only about 1/3 of Seoul is presently in range from artillery along a DMZ trace.  The northern reaches of Seoul within artillery range have much lower population densities than Seoul proper;
  2. Numbers – Even though KPA has a tremendous number of artillery pieces, only a certain number are emplaced to range Seoul.  KPA can’t emplace every weapon near Seoul or the rest of North Korea’s expansive border would be unguarded and even more vulnerable.  Moreover, an artillery tube immediately reveals its location as soon as it fires. Therefore only about two-thirds of artillery will open fire at a time.  The rest are trying to remain hidden;
  3. Protection – Artillery shelters for twenty million people exist in the greater Seoul metropolitan area.  After the initial surprise has worn off, there simply won’t be large numbers of exposed people. Even during the initial attack the vast majority of people will either be at work, at home, or in transit.  Few people will be standing in the middle of an open field with no protection whatsoever available anywhere nearby. 

Three Secondary Factors

  1. Dud rate – the only numbers available—to the DPRK as well as the rest of the world—indicate a dud rate of twenty-five percent.  It’s like immediately taking every fourth artillery tube away.
  2. Counter-battery fires – shortly after the KPA artillery begins firing, and the political decision has been made, South Korean artillery, Air Forces, and others will begin destroying artillery at a historical rate of 1% per hour.  South Korea has had approximately 50 years to figure out where North Korean artillery tubes are emplaced using every sense available to man and machine.
  3. Logistics – in order to move south from the DMZ trace and place the rest of Seoul at risk, KPA must expose approximately 2,500 thin-skinned vehicles each day along three well-defined transportation corridors.  Otherwise, KPA grinds to an almost immediate halt without a way to transport fuel, ammunition and spare parts needed to continue moving south.  Alternatively, KPA can scavenge from ROK fuel stores and depots if they have not been previously destroyed.

It is calculated that North Korea has zero capability of actually delivering a nuke. They do however have chemical and biological capability. Unsurprisingly the war is likely to be won in the air. That is bad news for North Korea.

Given a battlefield air interdiction rate approaching 0.5 [13] and that ROK has 467 aircraft, [14] the ROK alone can destroy approximately 230 targets per sortie. The ROK would likely get one to two sorties before the DPRK attempts to shut down ROK airfields by conventional means or by escalating to chemical or biological weapons.

However, the cost to the DPRK of resorting to chemicals or biological weapons is extremely high.  Moreover, in the end, it will not significantly impact the military outcome, even though it would certainly impact the political outcome.  The vast majority of U.S. aircraft are not on the Korean peninsula and are out of DPRK range.  If the U.S. were to bring only half of the Air Force fighter and bomber fleet [15] to bear, the DPRK would likely lose another 500-700 targets per day in addition to those lost to direct, indirect and counter-battery-fire and various other reasons.  And even assuming the forces are successful, they will likely run out of fuel and ammunition in one to two weeks unless the DPRK leaves ROK stores intact and scavenges ROK fuel supplies. These calculations exclude Naval and Marine aircraft as well as TLAMs.  The DPRK would likely lose 20% of their tanks and artillery per day which is consistent with Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM.  In particular, the DPRK would suffer the majority of the damage in the first week, starting as soon as they leave their covered positions.

The mathematical calculations of death rates is morbid but fascinating to see how these things are calculated.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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