Republic of Korea Army


The Republic of Korea Army (ROKA; Korean: 대한민국 육군; Hanja: 大韓民國 陸軍; RR: Daehanminguk Yuk-gun), also known as the ROK Army or South Korean Army, is the army of South Korea, responsible for ground-based warfare. It is the largest of the military branches of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces with 420,000 members as of 2020. This size is maintained through conscription; South Korean men must complete 18 months of military service between the age of 18 and 35.[2]

Republic of Korea Army
대한민국 육군
大韓民國 陸軍
Daehanminguk Yuk-gun
Seal of the Republic of Korea Army.svg
Coat of arms of the Republic of Korea Army
Founded5 September 1948; 73 years ago (1948-09-05)
Country South Korea
RoleLand warfare
Size420,000 personnel (2020)[1]
Part of Republic of Korea Armed Forces
Garrison/HQGyeryong, South Chungcheong, South Korea
Nickname(s)"ROK Army", "ROKA", "South Korean Army"
Motto(s)강한친구 대한민국 육군
("A Strong Friend, Republic of Korea Army")
("Army Anthem")
Mascot(s)호국이 (Hogugi)
WebsiteOfficial website
Commander-in-Chief President Yoon Suk-yeol
Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-sup
Chief of Staff of the ArmyGeneral Park Jeong-hwan
Flag of the Republic of Korea Army.svg


Korean soldiers in 1898.
A U.S. Army drawing and showing ROKA soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War in 1966.
The Republic of Korea Army using a 57 mm anti-tank gun during the Korean War in 1950.

The modern South Korean army traces its lineage back to the Gwangmu Reform, when the Byeolgigun was established by Emperor Gojong in 1881.

The 1st of every October is celebrated in South Korea as Armed Forces Day. It commemorates the day during the Korean War when units of the ROK Army first crossed the 38th Parallel, thus leading the UN Coalition north into North Korean territory for the first time.

The National Security Guard Of South Korea was originally formed out of the Republic Of Korea Army. This organization was created during the United States-lead occupation period from 1945 to 1948. The National Security Guard Of South Korea was initially a reserve unit of the National Police. In addition, some of ethnic Koreans were Nationalist Chinese and post-Manchurian soldiers remnants of the Imperial Japanese Army also contributed to the force. The National Defense Force was established on January 15, 1946, replacing the United States lead constabulary from 1945.

The outbreak of the Korean War caught the South Korean forces unprepared, requiring the United Nations to intervene with U.S.-led forces. The South Korean military rapidly developed during the Korean War, suffering enormous casualties and loss of equipment. As the Soviets had armed North Korea, the United States armed and trained the South Korean military throughout the Korean War.

Current operational statusEdit

The South Korean army is structured to operate in both the mountainous terrain native to the Korean Peninsula (60% mountainous) and in North Korea with its 950,000 strong Korean People's Army Ground Force, two-thirds of which is permanently garrisoned in the frontline near the DMZ. The current administration has initiated a program over the next two decades to design a purely domestic means of self-defense, whereby South Korea would be able to fully counter a North Korean attack.

The ROK Army was formerly organized into 3 armies: the First Army (FROKA), Third Army (TROKA) and Second Operational Command. Each with its own headquarters, 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 whereas the 2nd OC formed the rearguard.

Under a restructuring plan aimed at reducing redundancy, the Second ROK Army was converted as the Second Operations Command in 2007, and the First and Third ROK Armies were merged as the Ground Operations Command in 2019.


The army consists of 495,000 troops, approximately 2,400-2,500 tanks, 2,700 armored fighting vehicles, 5,800 artillery pieces, 60 guided missile systems, and 600 helicopters as of 2014. Main battle tank types include: 880 M48 Patton series and its upgrades such as M48A3K, M48A5, and M48A5K, 33 Soviet T-80U and 2 T-80UK (given by Russia to pay off debt), as well as 1,524 K1A1 and K1 tanks, which bear a 120 mm smoothbore gun and are of local manufacture. The future replacement for the K1 and K1A1 MBTs has been named the K2 Black Panther (흑표;黑豹 Heukpyo), which will be fitted with a 1500 hp MTU-based engine, 55-caliber 120 mm main gun with autoloader. The new tank will also feature radar equipment as well as all-bearing laser detection and defense systems, anti-missile active protection, and heavy reactive armor and sensor package comparable to the American M1A2 Abrams and German Leopard 2A6. The ROK Army is planning to field approximately 390 Black Panthers.

In addition Republic of Korea manufactures the K-9 howitzer which have been exported to Turkey as the T-155 howitzer as well as the ZMA series TIFV's which saw action in UN peacekeeping operations (PKO) as part of the Malaysian peacekeeping forces. A variation of the K200, the KAFVs can be retrofitted to bear a 90 mm cannon, 40 mm grenade turret, M230-1 Chain gun Turret, or MK-30 Chaingun Turret. A replacement for K200 series IFVs are currently being tested, designated as K21 KNIFV (Korea Next generation Infantry Fighting Vehicle), which will have various capabilities for both land and naval warfare. 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"(천마/天馬; Cheonma), fitted with 8 missiles that fly at maximum speeds of Mach 2.6, and the K-30 "Biho" series, which features a 30 mm twin gun system for anti-aerial fire support.

Besides having vehicles and equipment of their own design as well as American models, the ROK Army also possesses inventories of Russian-built AFVs, including BMP-3 IFVs and T-80U MBTs, given by the Russian government to pay off the financial debt owed to South Korea. Other notable foreign equipment in service with the ROK Army includes the Mistral MANPADS.

In 2015, it was reported by South Korean lawmakers that more than 58,000 out of 100,549 South Korean soldiers at the Korean Demilitarized Zone lacked body armor capable of protection from North Korean infantry firearms. The possession of only 42,030 body armor sets leaves 58,519 soldiers without body armor, and only 3,147 of the 42,030 sets are capable of protection from the AK-74, the standard assault rifle of the Korean People's Army.[3]

A new infantry rifle, the Daewoo K11, entered service in 2010. The overall concept of this weapon is more advanced to the American OICW, however its production has been halted and weapon discontinued in 2020 due to excessive issues involving its targeting component and the quality of ammunition, to focus on fixing the issues which have been quickly resolved.[4] Inspection of military equipment June 2021 found that 26% of components involving the Warrior Platform program for modernization of South Korean infantry is defective.[5]


South Korean soldiers on a recon exercise in 2014
K-1 88 main battle tank during an amphibious beach assault exercise
K-9 Thunder 155mm self-propelled howitzer

Republic of Korea Army Headquarters (대한민국 육군본부)Edit

  • Capital Defense Command 'SHIELD' (수도방위사령부 '방패부대')[6]
  • 1st Special Forces Brigade (Airborne) 'EAGLE' (1공수특전여단 '독수리부대')
  • 3rd Special Forces Brigade (Airborne) 'FLYING TIGER' (3공수특전여단 '비호부대')
  • 7th Special Forces Brigade (Airborne) 'PEGASUS' (7공수특전여단 '천마부대')
  • 9th Special Forces Brigade (Airborne) 'GHOST' (9공수특전여단 '귀성부대')
  • 11th Special Forces Brigade (Airborne) 'GOLDEN BAT' (11공수특전여단 '황금박쥐부대')
  • 13th Special Forces Brigade (Airborne) 'BLACK PANTHER' (13공수특전여단 '흑표부대')
  • Army Aviation Operations Command 'PHOENIX' (항공작전사령부 '불사조부대')
  • Army Missile Command 'ENDLESSNESS' (미사일사령부 '무극부대')
  • Army Training & Doctrine Command 'CREATION' (육군교육사령부 '창조대')
  • Army Personnel Command (육군인사사령부)
  • Army Logistics Command 'SEVEN STARS' (육군군수사령부 '칠성대')
  • Army Mobilization Force Command (육군동원전력사령부)

Ground Operations Command (GOC) (지상작전사령부)Edit

  • Capital Corps 'DEVOTION' (수도군단 '충의부대')
  • Capital Artillery Brigade (수도포병여단)
  • 1175th Engineer Group (1175공병단)
  • II Corps 'DOUBLE DRAGONS' (2군단 '쌍용부대')
  • 7th Infantry Division 'SEVEN STARS' (7보병사단 '칠성부대')
  • 15th Infantry Division 'VICTORY' (15보병사단 '승리부대')
  • 27th Infantry Division 'LET'S WIN' (27보병사단 '이기자부대')
  • III Corps 'MOUNTAINS' (3군단 '산악부대')
  • 20th Armored Brigade (20기갑여단)
  • 3rd Artillery Brigade (3포병여단)
  • 3rd Engineer Brigade (3공병여단)
  • 12th Infantry Division 'EULJI' (12보병사단 '을지부대')
  • 21st Infantry Division 'MT. BAEKDU' (21보병사단 '백두산부대')
  • V Corps 'VICTORIOUS ADVANCE' (5군단 '승진부대')
  • 1st Armored Brigade 'BLITZ' (1기갑여단 '전격부대')
  • 5th Artillery Brigade 'VICTORIOUS ADVANCE' (5포병여단 '승진포병부대')
  • 5th Engineer Brigade (5공병여단)
  • VI Corps 'ADVANCE' (6군단 '진군부대')
  • 5th Armored Brigade 'IRON STORM' (5기갑여단 '철풍부대')
  • 6th Artillery Brigade (6포병여단)
  • 6th Engineer Brigade (6공병여단)
  • VII Mobile Corps 'VANGUARD' (7 기동군단 '북진선봉부대')
  • 7th Artillery Brigade (7포병여단)
  • 7th Engineer Brigade (7공병여단)
  • VIII Corps 'DRAGON OF THE EAST SEA' (8군단 '동해충용부대')
  • 102nd Armored Brigade 'SUNRISE' (102기갑여단 '일출부대')
  • 22nd Infantry Division 'YULGOK' (22보병사단 '율곡부대')
  • 23rd Infantry Division 'IRON WALL' (23보병사단 '철벽부대') (will be dissolved in October 2021)[7]

Second Operations Command (2OC) (제2작전사령부)Edit

  • 2nd Quick Response Division (Airborne)‘Angry waves’ (2신속대응사단 ‘노도부대’)
  • 201st Commando Brigade ‘Golden eagle’ (201신속대응여단 ‘황금 독수리부대’)
  • 203rd Commando Brigade ‘Brave tiger’ (203신속대응여단 ‘용호부대’)
  • 5th Logistical Support Command ‘Five stars’ (5군수지원사령부 ‘오성부대’)
  • 31st Local Defense Division (31지역방위사단)
  • 32nd Local Defense Infantry Division ‘White dragon’ (32지역방위사단 ‘백룡부대’)
  • 35th Local Defense Infantry Division (35지역방위사단)
  • 37th Local Defense Infantry Division (37지역방위사단)
  • 39th Local Defense Infantry Division (39지역방위사단)
  • 50th Local Defense Infantry Division ’Steel’ (50지역방위사단 ’강철부대’)
  • 53rd Local Defense Infantry Division (53지역방위사단)


In officer ranks, "So" (少) equals small; "Jung" (中) equals medium; "Dae" (大) equals large. "Jun" (准) equals equivalent, used for Warrant Officer and 1 star general to ensure that they are regarded as officer/general, although these ranks are lower than the same grade with "So" rank. "Won" (元) equals principal, only used for Won-Su, General of the Army. Each of these is coupled with one of the following: "wi" (尉) equals company grade, "ryung" (領) equals field grade, and "jang" (將) equals general.

NCO rank is similar to officer. "Ha" (下) equals lower; "Jung" (中) equals medium; "Sang" (上) equals high; "Won" (元) equals principal, because this title is named after Won-Su, to ensure that this rank is higher than Sang-sa. Each of these is coupled with "Sa" (士) equals sergeant, although actual 'sergeant' rank is "Byeong-jang".

This system is due to the hanja or Sino-Korean origin of the names.[8]

Commissioned officer ranks
General officers Field officers Junior officers
Combat uniform                      
  Republic of Korea Army[9]
Warrant officer ranks
Rank group Warrant officer
Combat uniform[9]  
  Republic of Korea Army  
Other ranks
Rank group Non-commissioned officer Enlisted
Combat uniform                
  Republic of Korea Army[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "2020 Defence White Paper" (PDF). December 2020.
  2. ^ Klingner, Bruce. "South Korea: Taking the Right Steps to Defense Reform". The Heritage Foundation.
  3. ^ "Defenseless: Lawmaker, experts decry South Korean body armor shortage | NK News". 17 September 2015.
  4. ^ "South Korea pulls the plug on K11 weapon - Shephard Media".
  5. ^ "Pound-foolish procurement robs super soldiers of superpower".
  6. ^ Pike, John. "Capital Defense Command".
  7. ^ 22사단 감시장비 문제 없다던 軍, 뒤늦게 "과도한 오경보" 실토 YNA News
  8. ^[dead link]
  9. ^ a b c "Army Insignia". Republic of Korea Army. Retrieved 2 June 2021.

External linksEdit

  • Republic of Korea Army (in Korean)
  • Republic of Korea Army