Military and security forces: Armed Forces of the Republic of Korea: Republic of Korea Army (ROKA), Navy (ROKN, includes Marine Corps, ROKMC), Air Force (ROKAF); Military reserves include Mobilization Reserve Forces (First Combat Forces) and Homeland Defense Forces (Regional Combat Forces); Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries: Korea Coast Guard (2019) [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020 =]

Military personnel approximately 600,000 active duty personnel (465,000 Army; 70,000 Navy/Marines; 65,000 Air Force) (2019 est.) =

Number of people in the military (active): 599,000 (compared 74,200 in Argentina, 1,358,193 in the United States, 0 in Costa Rica, and 2,035,000 in China). South Korea: reserve: 3,100,000; paramilitary: 3,009,000; total: 6,708,000; per 1000 capita total: 130.5; per 1000 capita active: 11.6. [Source: Wikipedia Wikipedia ]

The main branches of the South Korean military are the army, navy, air force, and National Maritime Police (Coast Guard). There were 687,000 troops serving on active duty in 2005, of whom approximately 159,000 were conscripts. Another 4.5 million were in the reserves. The army had 560,000 personnel, the air force 64,700, the navy 63,000, and the maritime police 4,500. A civilian defense corps numbers 3.5 million. [Source: Library of Congress, May 2005 **]

The Army's equipment roster included 2,330 main battle tanks, 40 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 2,480 armored personnel carriers, over 10,774 artillery pieces, and 60 attack helicopters. Major naval units included 20 tactical submarines, 6 destroyers, nine frigates, 28 corvettes, 80 patrol/coastal vessels, and 15 mine warfare ships. The Air Force had 540 combat-capable aircraft, including 210 fighters and 283 fighter ground attack aircraft. The ROK in 2005 provided support for peacekeeping and UN missions in seven countries or regions. The United States maintained a military presence of over 40,000 personnel in the ROK. The defense budget in 2005 totaled US$20.7 billion. **

The army has 3 mechanized infantry divisions, 19 infantry divisions, 2 independent infantry brigades, 7 special forces brigades, 3 counter-infiltration brigades, 3 surface-to-surface missile battalions, 3 airborne artillery brigades, 5 surface-to-air missile battalions, and 1 aviation command with 1 air assault brigade. The reserves have one army headquarters with 23 infantry divisions. The navy has three commands: Tonghae (East Sea), P’yongt’aek (Yellow Sea), and Chinhae (Korea Strait) and bases in Chinhae (Headquarters), Cheju, Mokp’o, Mukho, P’ohang, Pusan, P’yongt’aek, and Tonghae. The marines (part of the navy) have two divisions. The air force has four commands, a tactical airlift wing, and a composite wing. **

Army of South Korea

Active duty personnel in the South Korean Army: 465,000 Army in 2019. In 2005, there were 560,000 people in the Army and an additional 4.5 million were in the reserves. [Source: Library of Congress, May 2005 **; CIA World Factbook, 2020]

In 2005, the army had three mechanized infantry divisions, 19 infantry divisions, two independent infantry brigades, seven special forces brigades, three counter-infiltration brigades, three surface-to-surface missile battalions, three airborne artillery brigades, five surface-to-air missile battalions, and one aviation command with one air assault brigade. The reserves had one army headquarters with 23 infantry divisions. **

The army was responsible for the ground component of South Korea's air defense network and had two surface-to-surface missile battalions and several antiaircraft gun battalions. The surface-to-surface missile battalions were equipped with United States-produced HAWK and Nike Hercules missiles, the former having a range of 42 kilometers, the latter a range of 140 kilometers. The field armies had small quantities of three types of man-portable, shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles. These included the British-produced Javelin and the United Statesproduced Redeye missile. Additionally, there were three types of antiaircraft guns in use: the Swedish-produced Bofors L/70 40mm; the Swiss-produced Oerlikon GDF-002 35mm; and the domestically produced Vulcan 20mm. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990 *]

Army Units of South Korea

The ground forces were organized into three armies and several independent operational and functional commands. The First Army and the Third Army occupied well-fortified positions stretching southward from the DMZ about fifty kilometers. The First Army's mission was to defend the eastern section of the DMZ. The Third Army, South Korea's largest and most diversified combat organization, was responsible for guarding the most likely potential attack routes from North Korea to Seoul — the Munsan, Ch'orwon, and Tongduch'on corridors. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990 *]

The Second Army had operational command over all army reserve units, the Homeland Reserve Force, logistics, and training bases located in the six southernmost provinces. Select army troops were assigned to the Capital Defense Command (formerly the Capital Garrison Command), whose active duty component, really more a countercoup force than a defensive force, was a little less than a division in 1990, organized into three separate security groups or regiments. They were assigned to defend the Blue House (the presidential residence), major government and Ministry of National Defense buildings, and Kimp'o International Airport. The wartime strength of the Capital Defense Command comes from multiple division reserves, which would be mobilized during a conflict. The Capital Defense Command also was responsible for peacetime training of all Seoul area reserves. Functional commands included the Counterespionage Operations Command, subordinate to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and responsible for interdicting North Korean saboteurs and espionage agents; the Defense Security Command, the army's internal security organization; and the Logistics Base Command, which was established to manage the movement of supplies to the frontlines.*

Active-duty infantry units were organized as combined armed forces with armor and artillery forces subordinate to the division or brigade commander. The Third Army and First Army controlled nineteen infantry divisions and two mechanized infantry divisions. In 1987 each infantry division had about 14,716 soldiers, but in terms of transportation and communications and other equipment was considered "light" by United States standards. Each infantry division had four battalions per regiment, three infantry regiments and one artillery regiment per division, a reconnaissance/ranger battalion and an armor battalion (some only had armor companies), and a reasonable facsimile of combat support and combat service support units in comparison to United States counterparts. The two mechanized infantry divisions each had three mechanized/maneuver brigade headquarters, a cavalry battalion, and a mix of nine armor and mechanized infantry battalions.*

The Special Warfare Command had seven brigades trained for wartime missions behind enemy lines. Although information on the organization of these units was unavailable in 1990, they probably were among the best-trained and most combat-ready forces in the army.*

A single aviation brigade operated several types of attack and transport helicopters that could be strategically deployed to support combat operations of the infantry divisions and special forces. Some 200 McDonnell Douglas 500-MD helicopters were produced under license by Korean Air between 1976 and 1984. At least fifty of these helicopters were equipped with TOW antitank weapons. The remainder were used as transports and for other support missions. In 1990 South Korea also had about 50 McDonnell Douglas AH-1S attack helicopters and 144 McDonnell Douglas UH1B /H transport helicopters.*

Weapons and Equipment of the South Korean Army

In the mid 2000s, the South Korean Army's equipment roster included 2,330 main battle tanks, 40 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 2,480 armored personnel carriers, over 10,774 artillery pieces, and 60 attack helicopters. North Korea has more than 5,000 multiple-launch rockets pointed at Seoul, whose metro area is home to some 25 million people. [Source: Library of Congress, May 2005]

Tanks and Main Artillery in 2016
Tanks: 2,381 (light tanks and tank destroyers, either wheeled or tracked)
Armored Fighting Vehicles (AFVs): 2,660 (Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) and Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs)
Self-Propelled Guns (SPGs): 1,990
Towed-Artillery: 5,374
Multiple-Launch Rocket Systems (MLRSs): 214
Helicopters: 679
Attack Helicopters: 77 [Source:]

Between 1980 and 1990, the army increased in size by only a small margin. During this same period, however, new units were formed; the procurement of new tanks, armored personnel carriers, field artillery, antitank guns, air defense missiles, helicopters, and other types of military equipment significantly improved the defensive capabilities of the ground forces. In 1980 the army had approximately 1,200 United States-produced M-47 and M-48 tanks and 500 mostly United States-produced M-113 armored personnel carriers (also some Fiat 6614 wheeled armored personnel carriers). By 1990 South Korea had manufactured 200 of the domestically produced T-88 tank and had upgraded most of its M-48s to M-48A3s or M-48A5s. During the period from 1980 to 1990, the number of field artillery pieces more than doubled, going from 2,000 to 4,200 pieces, and South Korea began to introduce larger guns to extend the effective range of fire. In 1980 the army was equipped with 57mm, 75mm, 90mm, and 106mm recoilless rifles for antitank use and TOWs. In 1990 the TOW and LAW still were the primary antitank weapons. The 106mm/90mm recoilless rifles increased in numbers and were the basic antitank system for the infantry, although lower caliber weapons still existed. The TOWs were relatively scarce and were organized into independent units separate from the infantry divisions' main organization and equipment. The national air defense network comprised only 100 Vulcan antiaircraft guns and a small number of Nike-Hercules and HAWK surface-to-air missiles in 1980; by 1990 there were 600 antiaircraft guns, and the NikeHercules and HAWKs had both increased in number and undergone significant upgrades. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990 *]

Air Force of South Korea

The South Korean air force has four commands, a tactical airlift wing, and a composite wing. Active duty personnel in the Air Force: : 65,000 (2019 est.); 64,700 in 2005. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020; Library of Congress, May 2005]

The air force was organized into three commands operating approximately 700 aircraft from eight major airbases: the Combat Air Command controlled the bulk of the roughly 500 jet combat aircraft; a small Air Transportation Command had 37 transport aircraft; and the Air Training Command used 7 types of trainers. In 1990 the air force had 40,000 personnel on active duty. Most of these personnel were stationed at large, well-defended air bases located at Suwon, Osan, Ch'ongju, Kangnong, Taegu, Kunsan, Kwangju, and Sunch'on. The air force also operated an unknown number of smaller airbases. Civilian airfields, including three international airfields at Seoul, Pusan, and Cheju, would be utilized in wartime, as would specially designed sections of major highways. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990 *]

The Combat Air Command, headquartered at Osan, controlled aircraft that included twenty-two squadrons of ground attack fighters/interceptors, twenty-three counterinsurgency aircraft in one squadron, twenty reconnaissance aircraft in one squadron, and fifteen search-and-rescue helicopters in one squadron. All of these aircraft were produced in the United States, with the exception of sixty-eight Northrop F-5E/Fs that were coproduced with Korean Air. The 294 Northrop F-5s and 36 General Dynamics F16C /Ds were the primary ground attack aircraft. Approximately 130 McDonnell Douglas F-4s were deployed for air defense but were equally useful in ground attack. All three types of aircraft were capable of being used in either role, depending on their armament. The air force supported army counterinsurgency programs with twenty-three Cessna A-37 aircraft, used as forward air controllers, but which could also be used in ground attack. Eight Northrop F-5s and twelve McDonnell Douglas F-4s were equipped solely for reconnaissance. A total of fifteen Bell UH-1B and UH1H helicopters were available for search-and-rescue operations.*

During the 1980s, the air force modernization program focused primarily on the formation and deployment of twelve new fighter aircraft squadrons and the establishment of an automated air defense network. The F-16 provided South Korea with an aircraft believed to be technologically superior to similarly designed communist aircraft, including the Soviet-produced MiG-29, the most sophisticated aircraft employed by the North Korean air force. South Korea-United States coproduction of F-5 aircraft demonstrated the resolve of South Korean military planners to promote a defense industry that simultaneously utilized advanced United States technology while enhancing indigenous efforts both at establishing an aviation industry and increasing access to Western technology.*

The Tactical Air Control Center at Osan became operational in 1983. Reconnaissance aircraft and air defense radar sites informed the center about potentially hostile aircraft before they entered South Korean airspace. In wartime this capability was expected to allow South Korean air controllers more time to assess threat and the ability quickly to communicate orders to interceptor aircraft and surface-to-air missile sites.*

Aircraft and Equipment in the South Korea, Air Force

In the mid 2000s, the South Korean Air Force had 540 combat-capable aircraft, including 210 fighters and 283 fighter ground attack aircraft. [Source: Library of Congress, May 2005]

Total Aircraft in 2016: 1,451
Fighters/Interceptors: 406
Fixed-Wing Attack Aircraft: 448
Transport Aircraft: 348
Trainer Aircraft: 256 [Source:]

According to Reuters: In 2010, Seoul asked Washington to sell it US-made RQ-4 Global Hawk spy planes. The South's military had originally planned to introduce the unmanned spy drones by 2015 but decided to speed up the deployment of the world's most advanced reconnaissance planes to strengthen its intelligence abilities, according to the source. At the same time, South Korea will buy 60 stealth fighter jets earlier than scheduled, a senior official at the defence ministry was quoted by Yonhap as saying. Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightening II Joint Strike Fighter, Boeing's newly designed F-15 Silent Eagle and the Eurofighter Typhoon made by the European consortium are expected to compete for the order estimated at 10 trillion won. South Korea has purchased 60 of Boeing's F-15 fighter jets under the first two stages of the fighter modernisation programme, code-named F-X since 2002. [Source: Reuters, March 8, 2011]

Navy and Marine Corps of South Korea

The South Korean Navy and Marine Corps is regarded as a single unit. Active duty personnel of the Navy and Marine Corps: 70,000 (2019 est.). In 2005 there were 63,000 people in the Navy and Marine and an estimated 4,500 personnel in the Maritime Police. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020; Library of Congress, May 2005 **]

The navy has three commands: Tonghae (East Sea), P’yongt’aek (Yellow Sea), and Chinhae (Korea Strait) and bases in Chinhae (Headquarters), Cheju, Mokp’o, Mukho, P’ohang, Pusan, P’yongt’aek, and Tonghae. The marines (part of the navy) have two divisions. **

In 1990 the navy and marine corps remained small forces primarily dedicated to protecting the nation's territorial waters and islands, respectively. There was one large naval base at Chinhae, and seven small naval stations located at Cheju, Inch'on, Mokp'o, Mukho, Pukp'yong-ni, P'ohang, and Pusan. Both the navy and marine corps were subordinate to the chief of naval operations, who was a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The navy, with 35,000 personnel, was organized into three fleet commands and separate commands for aviation, amphibious operations, mine warfare, training, and logistics — all subordinate to the first vice chief of naval operations. The marine corps, with 25,000 personnel, was organized into two divisions and one brigade under the Marine Corps Command. Although part of the navy, marine units often operated under army control. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990 *]

During the 1980s, the navy's modernization program focused on antisubmarine warfare and the deployment of new types of indigenously produced submarines, frigates, missile-equipped fast attack craft, and patrol boats. Naval vessels deployed with the Eastern, Western, and Southern fleets were equipped with modern sonar equipment, depth charges, and torpedoes to counter more effectively North Korea's growing submarine force. Two types of United States-produced and one type of French-produced shipborne surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles were used by the navy on its destroyers, frigates, and fast attack craft. United States-produced Harpoon surface-to- surface missiles, with a ninety-kilometer range, were deployed on Gearing-class destroyers, Ulsan-class frigates, and Paegu-class fast attack craft derived from the Ashville-class. Frenchproduced Exocet surface-to-surface missiles, with a seventykilometer range, were employed on Donghae frigates and Kirogiclass fast attack craft. Paegu fast attack craft were equipped with United States-produced Standard surface-to-air missiles.*

The Naval Aviation Command and the Naval Amphibious Command operated small fleets of aircraft and landing craft, respectively, to support naval fleet and marine corps operations. Twenty-five Grumman S-2 aircraft, twenty-five Hughes 500-MD helicopters, and ten Bell SA-316 helicopters were shore based. They were deployed for surveillance of surface ships and for antisubmarine warfare.*

Marine Corps and Maritime Police of South Korea

The South Korean Navy and Marine Corps is regarded as a single unit. Active duty personnel of the Navy and Marine Corps: 70,000 (2019 est.). In 2005 there were 63,000 people in the Navy and Marine and an estimated 4,500 personnel in the Maritime Police. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020; Library of Congress, May 2005 **]

South Korea stations hundreds of marines on front-line islands within easy striking distance of North Korea. If war ever broke out with North Korea, there is good chance South Korea's marines would face the brunt of a North Korean attack. The waters where the marines are stationed are claimed by both countries. Boats routinely jostle for position during crab-catching season and three deadly naval clashes since 1999 have taken dozens of lives.

The South Korean military has beefed up marines' combat readiness on a cluster of bases in the Yellow Sea and increased high-tech weapons systems on the islands facing the North. Nevertheless the stress seems to have taken its toll. Two South Korean soldiers involved in killing sprees were marines.

South Korea has a National Maritime Police (Coast Guard) force of approximately 4,500 on active duty. The marine corps was assigned the defense of the Han River estuary and five northwestern islands located close to North Korea. The Naval Amphibious Command operated fifty-two amphibious craft in support of the marine corps.*

South Korean Navy Ships and Equipment

In 2005, major naval units included 20 tactical submarines, 6 destroyers, nine frigates, 28 corvettes, 80 patrol/coastal vessels, and 15 mine warfare ships. [Source: Library of Congress, May 2005]

Total Naval Strength in 2016: 166
Aircraft Carriers: 1 helicopter carrier
Frigates: 11
Destroyers: 12
Corvettes: 18
Submarines: 15
Coastal Defense Craft: 80
Mine Warfare: 10 [Source:]

Reserve Forces in South Korea

Number of people in the South Korean military reserve: 3,100,000 (2019. In the 2005 there were 560,000 people in the Army and an additional 4.5 million were in the reserves. [Source: Wikipedia Wikipedia ;: Library of Congress, May 2005 **]

In the 1990s, the reserve forces included mobilization reserve forces for each of the armed services and the Homeland Reserve Force, a paramilitary organization responsible for community and regional defense. Between 1968 and 1988, males between the ages of eighteen and forty were eligible for defense call-up duty; there was no clear policy on the age at which a recruit was eligible for retirement. In January 1988, a new policy was instituted that reduced the age-group of the male population subject to service in the reserves: only males who had been drafted for service between the ages of nineteen and thirty-four were required to serve in the reserves. The period of service was limited to between six and eight years, depending on the individual's age at conscription. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990 *]

The mission of the mobilization reserves was to provide each of the services with well-trained personnel prepared to enter combat as soon as possible in wartime. In 1990 there were 1,240,000 men in the reserves: 1,100,000 in the army; 60,000 in the marines; 55,000 in the air force; and 25,000 in the navy. Most recruits had served on active duty in their respective services and were assigned to a reserve unit upon completion of their term of enlistment. Units in the reserves probably closely resembled active-duty organizations. Mobilization reserve personnel attended regularly scheduled training about one day a month and also participated in an annual field exercise that lasted about one week. Active-duty officers and NCOs were assigned to command and staff positions in the reserves at battalion and higher levels.*

In 1975 the National Assembly passed the Civil Defense Law, which was promulgated to establish organizations in every community to protect lives and property during wartime and natural disasters. Males between the ages of nineteen and fifty who were not drafted for service in the military were recruited for service in civil defense units. In 1980 there were over 90,000 civil defense personnel in the country. By 1990 their numbers were more than 3.5 million. Their missions included air raid defense, search and rescue, and building and road repair.*

Paramilitary and Civil Defense Forces in South Korea

Paramilitary forces: 3,009,000 (2019). Paramilitary forces in 2005 included 3.5 million in the Civilian Defense Corps. [Source: Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Library of Congress, May 2005]

The Homeland Reserve Force was established in April 1968 as part of a nationwide program to increase defense preparedness in the wake of North Korean provocations. In January 1968, a North Korean commando unit infiltrated Seoul and attacked the Blue House in an attempt to assassinate President Park Chung Hee. That same month, two additional North Korean commando units launched attacks on towns on the east coast in attempts to encourage the South Korean populace to overthrow the government. Homeland Reserve Force personnel were given basic training in physical fitness, weapons familiarization, and defense tactics against various types of attacks by enemy forces. In wartime these units would remain close to or in their own cities, villages, or towns, where they would guard roads, power plants, factories, and other potential military targets. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990 *]

707th Special Mission Battalion

The 707th Special Mission Battalion (SMB) is a special forces and counter terrorist unit in the South Korean Army under the Special Warfare Command. It was created formed after the terrorist attack on Israeli athletes at Munich massacre in 1972 and was in place at the time of the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. The unit has about 200 men and women organized in two companies. [Source: Wikipedia +]

The 707th SMB’s primary duty is to thwart North Korean and terrorist attacks on South Korean soil. The unit is South Korea’s primary counter-terrorist and quick reaction force. The unit’s soldiers – once distinguished by their black berets (before the standardization of the black beret for all active soldiers) – are tasked with conducting urban counter terrorist missions, and constitute the Army’s quick-reaction force for emergencies. The battalion's nickname is 'White Tiger.' The unit also has a small number of female special forces operatives. They are used in counter-terror operations where the presence of a woman is not seen as a threat to a terrorist.

Jeremy Bender wrote in Business Insider: “One way South Korea has tried to keep pace with North Korea's military capabilities is through building up fearsome corps of special forces, consisting of seven special forces brigades with an eighth special mission battalion. That battalion, called the 707th, or the "White Tigers," is the most elite of the special forces within the South Korean Armed Forces. The group is composed of volunteers from all branches of the military, along with handpicked candidates. Men and women both serve in the White Tigers. [Source: Jeremy Bender, Business Insider, October 13, 2014 /=]

The recruitment process usually involves conscripts from the different branches of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces who apply and try out to become members of the elite force. Others are handpicked by their superiors across the different branches of the military and try out like their applicant counterparts. The selection process is very rigorous. First applicants will undergo a background check and then undergo a 10-day procedure in which 90 percent are eliminated. +

All members of the White Tigers are also fully SCUBA and parachute certified and black belts in Tae Kwon Do. The average member has three black belts in three different martial arts. Winter training involves performing daily drills in the snow and sub-zero temperatures and swimming in freezing lakes without any thermal protection. During urban training, they practice infiltrating enemy-held buildings, performing coordinated a doorway entries and rappelling in through the windows. The martial arts training utilizes both human and non-human targets. Men and women train equally in hand-to-hand combat. The special forces also train in quick helicopter evacuations and high speed parachute drops. /=\ +

The 707th Special Mission Battalion has trained with the U.S. Army's Delta Force, FBI HRT, British SAS, Russia's Alpha Group, French GIGN, Canadian JTF2, Hong Kong SDU, and Singaporean STAR. The battalion owns and operates a multi-complex counter-terrorism training site for the Republic of Korea Army Special Warfare Command and hosts multi-national counter-terrorist training. The group has reportedly engaged in covert missions on North Korean soil and used against Chinese fishermen. +

Peacekeepers from South Korea

South Korea provided support for peacekeeping and UN missions in several countries and regions. Military deployments in 2019: 280 Lebanon (UNIFIL); 170 United Arab Emirates. Since 2009, South Korea has kept a naval flotilla with approximately 300 personnel in the waters of the Middle East (April 2020) [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020]

South Korea provided peacekeepers for UN missions in seven countries or regions in 2005. In August 2004, the 2,800-strong Korea Zaytun Division for Peace and Reconstruction in Iraq arrived in Irbil, in northern Iraq. There are also 205 South Korean troops participating in Operation Enduring Freedom in Kyrgyzstan. South Korean troops also have taken part in United Nations (UN) Peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan (UNAMA), East Timor (UNMISET), Georgia (UNOMIG), India/Pakistan (UNMOGIP), Liberia (UNMIL), and Western Sahara (MINURSO). [Source: Library of Congress, May 2005]

Shin-wha Lee and Joon Sung Park of Korea University wrote:, During the 21st century, the Republic of Korea (hereafter, Korea) has shown a sharp decline followed by a resurgence of commitment to United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations. In the early 2000s, the number of Korean UN peacekeepers was over 450. Then, from 2003 to mid-2007, the number dropped significantly and averaged about 42 over the period. This decline coincided with the Iraq War in 2003, to which Korea dispatched a significant number of troops to support the US-led coalition’s operations in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Northern Iraq (see figure 2). The Korean civil-military operations (CMO) unit in Iraq, the so-called “Zaytun Division,” comprised of over 3,500 uniformed personnel and was deployed from September 2004 to December 2008. From July 2007, however, Korea not only recovered its previous level of commitment to UN peacekeeping it expanded the number of troops committed, the scope of their work, and areas of operation. Korea tries to keep at least two fully-organized units deployed on UN missions (currently an engineering unit serves in UNMISS and a mechanized infantry unit serves in UNIFIL). It currently provides over 600 UN peacekeepers, although its contribution peaked at 760 troops in July 2012. Traditionally, Korean peacekeeping contributions have been mainly engineers and medics but small contingents of infantry units have accompanied them when operational circumstances require force protection. [Source: Shin-wha Lee and Joon Sung Park, Department of Political Science and International Relations, Korea University, Seoul, Korea,, June 2014 ]

The increase in Korea’s contribution to UN peacekeeping after 2007 reflects its willingness to become a more proactive contributor. Since late 2009, the Korean government has initiated a series of legal and institutional measures to lay the groundwork for future participation in UN peacekeeping. These measures include the passage of the Law on Participation in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations in December 2009, the strengthening and expansion of the Peacekeeping Center at the National Defense University in January 2010, and the creation of the International Peace Support Force (known as Onnuri Unit), which is essentially a standing unit designated for overseas deployment.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons.

Text Sources: South Korean government websites, Korea Tourism Organization, Cultural Heritage Administration, Republic of Korea, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Library of Congress, CIA World Factbook, World Bank, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Chunghee Sarah Soh in “Countries and Their Cultures”, “Columbia Encyclopedia”, Korea Times, Korea Herald, The Hankyoreh, JoongAng Daily, Radio Free Asia, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, BBC, AFP, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2021

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