Do You Know Do You Know Who Would Win If North Korea and South Korea Went On War?


North Korea, a country that is hugely separated from the rest of the world in terms of development, economy, media, cultural exchange, and even time and date. They have a freaking calendar of their own that follows the time that starts after the birth of Kim II Sung. It is called the Juche calendar and the birth year of Kim II Sung, that is, 1912 is called Juche 1. Similarly, 2011 was Juche 100. It should be rather called an intentionally separated state, because the supreme ruler of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, wishes so. On the other hand, there is South Korea, a country that is, per say, the exact opposite of its northern counterpart. South Korea has an open economy, has a much larger population, is a democracy and is far more advanced in terms of technology, civilization, and do not forget K-Pop, especially K-Pop. Both the countries have had a rough past but have gotten used to living beside each other over the years. Well, sort of.

North Korea vs South Korea: Who Are You Betting On?

north korea vs south korea

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Now, I am not a sadist, but this indeed is an intriguing question. At the time of their final partition in 1953, after the armistice agreement that created a de facto internationally recognized border that we see today, North Korea showed greater promise in terms of economic growth and stability. This was also because South Korea at that time was amidst economic unrest and instability. But soon after the initial years, the tables turned and the game changed completely. Currently, South Korea has a GDP of over USD 2 trillion, whereas North Korea has a GDP of merely USD 40 billion. This can also be linked to the continuous support South Korea gets from its ally, the United States, while North Korea has long broken its partnership with the Soviet Union due to their ideological differences and also because the Soviet Union doesn’t exist anymore.

Coming back to the armistice of 1953. It is important to keep in mind that the armistice was just a way to break off the war and create a boundary between the two states. But that is not a peace treaty, so basically, the two countries are still at a state of war. You might think why they are not fighting then. Well, it is not that easy. With Russia out of the picture and with the constant support of the USA along with 30,000 US troops already stationed in South Korea, it is a formidable opponent for North Korea, even if they deny to admit it. But it is fascinating to think who would win if an actual war was to break out between North Korea and South Korea. Aren’t you intrigued? Who will win in a North Korea vs. South Korea bout? Well, let’s find out.

Before we start the actual comparison, let us see some facts first.

1. Facts

North Korea

north korea

  • The annual Gross Domestic Product per capita is around USD 1,800 and it ranks 197th in the entire world. South Korea has 18 times more Gross Domestic Product per capita and the USA, 28 times more.
  • Almost a third of North Korea’s child population has stunted growth due to lack of nutrition.
  • Half of the entire populous of North Korea thrives in extreme poverty. They are not even given complete access to fuel for heating and cooking. This may be because of their really short supply and zero reserves of crude oil.
  • The average life expectancy is 64 years, which was 69 years in 1980.
  • Inflation is sky high. Experts say it might as high as 100 percent.
  • The standard of living is simply pathetic as many lack flush toilets and proper sewage systems. Houses are kept warm by the use of bonfires.
  • Electricity supply is so scarce that proper electricity stays for a few hours every day.

South Korea

south korea

  • With a population of 51.6 million, the country has an annual growth rate of 0.382 percent.
  • Infant mortality rate in South Korea is merely 2.9 percent in a thousand live births.
  • Life expectancy is around 82.1 years as opposed to North Korea’s 64 years.
  • Electricity production is a whopping 505 billion kilowatts per hour, whereas consumption is a little above 495 billion kilowatts per hour.

2. Military

north korea vs south korea

North Korea

The country has a population of 25.16 million people, of which there are 1,190,000 active military troops, 600,000 reserved military troops, and a mind-boggling 5,889,000 paramilitary troops. The sum total of this comes to 7,679,000, which makes North Korea’s army the biggest on the face of the planet. Statistically, it is almost 2.5 times larger than the strongest military power in the world, that is, the United States of America.

South Korea

South Korea is not far behind as well. From a population of 51.62 million people, it has 625,000 active military troops and 3,100,000 reserved military troops. This takes the total number of troops to 3,725,000 troops. Combine this with the 30,000 US troops stationed in South Korea and we get a formidable force which can take on North Korea or at least give it a run for its money.

3. Economy And Military Spending

north korea vs south korea

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Such huge numbers require proper funding for various things including amenities, food, supplies, ammunition, maintenance, and whatnot. Both the countries spend on their armies but you would be shocked to find the difference in the amounts spent by each country.

North Korea

North Korea has a GDP of USD 40 billion out of which it spends around USD 10 billion on its military budget. Now, this amount may look small but it is a significant amount and considering North Korea’s ‘Juche’ ideology, which means complete self-reliance, 10 billion is a lot. 

Out of these USD 10 billion, North Korea’s expenditure on its nuclear arsenal is not known. It can be said that North Korea lives up to its title of a ‘secretive state’ as nothing regarding the stack of nuclear weapons are known to the outer world. It is, however, estimated that North Korea has a total of 10 nuclear warheads, as stated by the Federation of American Scientists in the year 2017.

South Korea

South Korea, on the other hand, has a massive USD 2 trillion GDP out of which it contributes almost USD 37 billion into its military spending. The numbers alone are enough to state that South Korea has way more provisions for its army than North Korea.

In terms of nuclear power, South Korea is only 10 nuclear warheads behind its northern counterpart. Right, they have ‘zero’ nuclear warheads. It is popularly said that South Korea has the technology to create nuclear weapons but it chooses not to. Smart choice or flattery to its ally, the USA? Well, somethings are better left unsaid. While 10 nuclear bombs are not much as compared to United States’ 6,990 warheads, the destruction caused by even one of them would be devastating. But as long as South Korea is protected under the ‘Nuclear Umbrella’, it is safe.

Trivia: A nuclear umbrella is a guarantee of protection provided by a country which possesses nuclear weapons to a country that does not possess nuclear weapons.

4. Army

south korean army

North Korea

In terms of firepower, North Korea has the upper hand. It has 6,600 armored tanks, 2,250 self-propelled guns, 4,100 armored fighting vehicles, 2,400 multiple launch rocket systems, and 4,300 towed artillery vehicles. Apart from the sheer numbers of armored tanks and artillery, North Korea also follows the policy of military service before anything. Therefore, it is most likely that North Korea will have the extra edge if a war was to break out with South Korea as South Koreans do not pursue such pro-battle mentality.

South Korea

The South Koreans have 2,654 armored tanks, 1,990 self-propelled guns, 2,660 armored fighting vehicles, 214 multiple launch rocket systems, and 5,374 towed artillery.

5. Air Force

south korean air force

North Korea

North Korea has a pretty strong air defense artillery but its air force is really not up to the mark when it comes to battle standards. It has 940 aircraft and most of them are old and outdated. Even the best of its fighter jets are considered obsolete. The North Korean fleet consists of 105 MiG 23 Floggers, 40 Mikoyan MiG 29 Fulcrums, and 35 Sukhoi SU 25 Frog Foots. These fighter jets may have been at their peak in the 1970’s and 1980’s but present day fighter jets will smoke them out in a jiffy. Even the Pentagon has labeled North Korea’s fighter jets as ‘vintage’.

South Korea

The South Korean air force is way advanced than their northern counterpart. They possess 1,500 fighter jets, which are distributed among F 16D/C fighting falcons, F 50s, and F 15 K Strike Eagles. It is also awaiting its delivery of forty F 35 Lightning IIs, which is said to be the world’s most advanced weaponized fighter jet.

6. Navy

south korean navy

North Korea

Again, just like its Air Force, the North Korean Navy disappoints greatly. In terms of advancement and technology, the North Korean fleet is considered obsolete as most of its units were built in the 1950s and 1960s. North Korea’s naval forces have 4 frigates, 6 corvettes, 78 submarines, 528 coastal defense crafts, ‘0’ destroyers, and ‘0’ aircraft carriers.

South Korea

On the other South Korea enjoys the upper hand as it has its own ship manufacturing industry, which happens to be known to be at the forefront of maritime design. To sum up, South Korea has 1 aircraft carrier, 12 frigates, 16 corvettes, 2 destroyers, 15 submarines, and 70 coastal defense crafts.  

The verdict on the prowess of the naval forces of both the countries is debatable. However, experts suggest that we should focus more on quality rather than quantity as most of North Korea’s naval equipment is as obsolete as its air crafts technology. In fact, it is not even comparable.

7. Fuel Sources

Any war would need fuel to power up ships, aircraft, and tanks. In this case, both South Korea and North Korea lack the resources. North Korea manages to produce 100 barrels per day whereas it consumes about 15,000 barrels every day. It has zero crude oil reserves. South Korea, on the other hand, produces around 500 barrels per day, consumes about 2,320,000 barrels every day, and has no oil reserves.

Final Verdict

south korea vs north korea

The final is verdict more inclined towards South Korea. This might be debatable in the eyes of many as many would suggest North Korea has the ultimate weapons in the form of nuclear warheads. But this is not the final solution to North Koreas troubles. North Korea might have nuclear warheads at its dispense but South Korea has the United States of America as its ally. And as far as I know, North Korea’s 10 nuclear bombs are nothing as compared to United States of America’s 6,990. On top of that, it is really hard to imagine any country coming to North Korea’s aid in case a war were to break out. It will just be a matter of time when North Korea loses its land advantage and South Korea along with its allies takes down North Korea’s anti-aircraft weapons, missile sites, land artillery, mission control centers, and finally the nation itself. And in case Kim Jong Un decides to unleash his nukes, he will get an answer from the United States soon enough. But again, that is something the world does not wish to witness.

I hope you agree with the article. Even if you don’t, you are entitled to your opinion. But let us know why you think otherwise below.

Like and share this article if you found it interesting.

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