North Korea: Country and Military by the Numbers

The country’s capital city is Pyongyang, and the executive branch of the DPRK’s government is headed by Kim Jong-un, the grandson of Kim Il Sung and the son of Kim Jong-il, who had ruled the country since its founding in 1948. The former has been designated the Eternal President and the latter the Eternal General Secretary. The current Premier is Pak Pong Ju, and there are eight vice premiers.

The unicameral legislature, the Supreme People’s Assembly, is elected by citizens 17 years of age and older and members serve five-year terms. The Korean Worker’s Party selects all candidates.

The DPRK’s judicial system consists of a supreme court comprised of a chief justice and two “people’s assessors.” The judges are elected to five-year terms by the Supreme People’s Assembly. The system includes provincial, municipal, military, special courts and people’s courts.

The country’s literacy rate is 100% and all citizens, both male and female, attend school for 12 years.

The life expectancy in the country is estimated at 70.4 years, comprised of an average of 66.6 years for men and 74.5 years for women. Nearly half (44%) of the population falls in the 25 to 54 year old age category and less than 10% of the population is over 65 years old. In the United States, just over 15% of the population is over 65 years old, and less than 40% falls in the 25 to 54 age range.

According to a U.S. Defense Department report, over a million soldiers serve in the Korean People’s Army. That total includes ground, air, naval, missile and special operations forces. The U.S. active duty roster in 2015 totaled 1.43 million. The U.S. population of about 320 million is more than 10 times that of the DPRK.

According to a recent report from Australia’s, North Korea spends as much as 22% of its $40 billion GDP on its military. U.S. defense spending, though much higher at $600 billion, represents about 3.3% of U.S. 2015 GDP of more than $18 trillion.

A report from Global Fire Power estimates that the DPRK’s defense budget is $7.5 billion, ranking it 23rd in the world for military spending. The country’s army includes 5,025 tanks, 4,100 armored fighting vehicles, 2,250 self-propelled guns, 4,300 towed artillery pieces and 2,400 multiple launch rocket systems.

The North Korean air force counts 944 total aircraft including 458 fighters, 572 fixed-wing attack aircraft, 100 transport aircraft, 169 trainers, 202 helicopters and 20 attack helicopters.

The North Korean navy includes a total strength of 967 vessels, including 438 coastal defense craft, 76 submarines, 25 mine-warfare ships, 11 frigates and two corvettes. The country has no aircraft carriers or destroyers.

The Defense Department report states that North Korea has been an exporter of conventional arms and ballistic missiles for several decades. Weapons sales are a critical source of foreign currency for the country, which is unlikely to cease export activity in spite of UN Security Council sanctions.

Journalist and newsletter writer Bill Bishop ( and @niubi) wrote on July 29:

The latest North Korean missile test is another sign of the progress in their program and the failure of existing approaches, or more likely the lack of any credible options that have any reasonable chance of achieving denuclearization without the incineration of parts of Seoul, Tokyo and possibly Northern China.

That was a bleak outlook a month ago and the test two weeks ago of a hydrogen bomb and last night’s flight of a missile that could reach Guam makes it even bleaker.