2003 May 08 Thursday
South Koreans Fearful Of War Make Quiet Departure Plans

Writing in The Christian Science Monitor Robert Marquand reports on South Koreans who plan ways to leave South Korea in case war looks imminent.

"It is what we talk about, but not too loudly," an older research specialist in Seoul reports. Like most Koreans contacted, he won't be identified. "It is a North Korean scare, and related issues. It is a subterranean feeling of insecurity. If you are wealthy, you've got a plan, and maybe a plane ticket sitting in a drawer."

Few Koreans will say directly that "North Korea" or "security" is a rationale for leaving. Yet several who are thinking about a visa, admitted that security issues influence their thinking.

The most interesting thing about the article is just how long-standing this fear has been in South Korea. While the fear is higher now than it was a few years ago it was higher still in 1994. The belief that they might some day need to flee has been a recurring belief among many South Koreans for a long time.

While it is not clear that the US will go to war against North Korea this year it seems inevitable that the war will happen sooner or later. The United States military needs to make a larger effort to develop counters to those parts of the North Korean arsenal that pose the biggest threat to the South Korean civilian population. If the US could succeed in developing effective counters this would reduce the divergence of interests between the US and South Korea over how to handle North Korea. The effect would be to create new military options for the US to deal with North Korea.

The threat of massive North Korean artillery barrages into civilian areas south of the DMZ seems like the problem most in need of a solution. The threat comes from what is reported to be over 10,000 artillery pieces dug into hillsides and mountains in North Korea. It is very difficult to find the locations of the small cave entrances for the artillery let alone to direct bombs or artillery shells into them. With that in mind here are some ideas for taking out the North Korean artillery:

  • Develop Fuel Air Explosives which can be targeted at the mountainsides where the artillery is dug in. The idea is to suck the breathable oxyigen out of the tunnels which contain the artillery so that no artillery operators would be left alive.
  • Develop specialized radars and electronics to be loaded on UAVs that can fly above areas which contain artillery in order to catch artillery shells on radar to track back to the locations of the dug in artillery pieces. The UAVs would be fairly autonomous and would simply report back by encrypted radio messages target coordinates and possibly numbers of shells recorded coming from each target.
  • Develop small portable ground radar systems which special forces could use near the DMZ and even inside North Korea to track artillery and send back originating coordinates to direct bombing and counter-battery artillery.
  • Develop smaller JDAMs so that a single bomber could carry and drop more JDAMs at suspected artillery locations. The idea is that a near miss may not work but if a larger number of bombs can be dropped the odds of a hit into a cave entrance goes up.
  • Develop radar or infrared sensors to put on bombs to help guide them in their final phase into cave entrances.
  • Develop very small sensors that can be dropped in large numbers which will glide down onto mountainsides in sufficient density that at least one will go into the entrance of every cave on a mountainside. The sensors should be able to detect (perhaps by light sensors if dropped during the day or by an attenuation of their radio signal or by their GPS signal placing them underground) that they are in a cave.
  • Develop small robots that can be parachuted in and then scramble across a mountainside looking for cave entrances.
  • Put long duration UAVs into the air in South Korea at high altitudes near the DMZ and keep their cameras and radars trained on North Korean mountainsides to look for human activity that reveals the locations of artillery caves. Do this for months on end and keep looking for clues.

The North Korean artillery threat should be approached in the spirit that it is a solvable problem and multiple approaches to solving it should be investigated in parallel.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 May 08 01:22 AM  Military War, Rumours Of War

wretchard said at May 8, 2003 5:14 AM:


The weaknesses of North Korean artillery are:

1. ammunition dumps and supply. You can't readily store vast quantities of ammo in bunkers and caves. Resupply to these restricted emplacements will be problematic;
2. immobility. It cannot displace. The arcs of fire of the tubes are limited;
3. fire control and direction must be primitive. There is probably very little in the way of counterbattery capability; no way to shift fires on moving targets; no time on target capacity.

In a word, the North Korean artillery is pretty much useless as a military instrument and is valid only as an instrument of terror for bombarding Seoul. Once US forces displace out of range, all of North Korea's tubes might as well be on the moon, as far as their battlefield effect is concerned.

The best strategy for dealing with North Korean artillery is the to issue a few million shovels to the citizens of Seoul, or better yet, organize a good evacuation plan.

If a war starts, I doubt whether the Nokors can sustain any rate of fire. How are they going to resupply the guns in those caves? Whatever ready use ammo they have is going to have to be it.

Any amphibious landing to the rear will cut the Nokor guns off completely. They can't train to meet the threat, unless they are fixing to shoot through rock. Moreover, the lack of fire control direction for all those immured tubes will mean that they can't engage anything beyond line of sight.

Those Nokor artillery pieces are just where we want them. The only problem is what they can do to Seoul. But then, if the North Koreans start a war, which they must do eventually since peace means starvation, a bombardment will happen anyway. It's not like anyone has a choice about Seoul. As indicated by your other posts, Randall, the citizens of the capital have made plans to leave if things starting looking dark.

daddysouth said at May 8, 2003 7:27 AM:

There is a new defensve option being developed might remove the threat all together:


godlesscapitalist said at May 8, 2003 7:47 AM:


As far as resupply goes, I was under the impression that the North has built an extensive tunnel system under the caves. I can find a source for this, or you can google it, but I remember reading this in several DOD-type places.

Also, Randall - I really like the idea of putting a bunch of satellites/surveillance on the North Korean suspected artillery areas *now*. Over time we should be able to get the coordinates of most of the guns as there will inevitably be activity around them. A first strike with a volley of appropriately-designed (fuel air, bunker busting, whatever is needed - I'm not an expert) missiles might neutralize that threat.

of course, it will take a total miscalculation on Kim Jong Il's part for the South to believe that a first strike might be worthwhile. I don't blame them one bit. They have one of the highest per capita GDPs in the world right now, and the status quo suits them just fine.

Randall Parker said at May 8, 2003 10:02 AM:

Wretchard, The fear of the first few hours of artillery bombardment is what makes the SK folks so afraid of joining us in a war against NK. It does not matter whether they can sustain it for days or weeks. There will already be hundreds of thousands of dead South Koreans.

GC, I agree about the satellites. there ought to be more than one satellite trained on the NK artillery area taking pictures at all times if they have any advantage over UAVs. Though if UAVs can do the job they'd be a whole lot cheaper.

Randall Parker said at May 8, 2003 10:04 AM:

Daddy South, your link does not work. MSNBC says it has expired. What is your story about?

daddysouth said at May 9, 2003 10:08 AM:

The title is:
"Laser shoots down artillery shell"

Randall Parker said at May 9, 2003 10:30 AM:

Daddy South, Okay, I found another story on it. Here is an ABC News story on laser defenses against artillery shells. Sounds like the system will not be deployable until 2010. Unless there is a way to speed up development it will not help us in Korea.

Mike Kelly said at September 20, 2003 3:46 PM:

Yes, North Korean artillery is out to date. The greatest fear is that North Korea could do damage to cities such as Seoul and Inchon (Artillery is reported to have the range down south to Suwon).
Two major issues could start a panic. North Korea has a large special forces group with its army. They are trained to infiltrate into South Korea (or Japan) by air craft, subs, tunnels systems that are undiscovered that go into South Korea and as spies already inplace.
They are trained in sabotage. Before an artillery strike happens, they would try to hit as many soft targets as possible, ie supply depots, hydroelectric and power plants, transportation systems, command and control personnel, parked military aircraft and vehicles.
The first day of battle is to cause as much confusion as possible. They would dress up to look like South Korea soldiers, US forces would have a hard time separating friend from foe.
The second action (very quickly after the special forces attack) would be a massive artillery strike from the DMZ to Seoul. North Korea already landed could radio in coordinates on a map of existing targes and groupings of Korean and US forces The goal will be to again cause confusion to South Korea in both military and the general population.
South Korean refugees from Seoul, Inchon, Musan and other places would attempt to flee down the traditional retreat route, Pusan.
They would be total chaos. South Korea would have to transfer a great deal of manpower and equipment in the attempt to maintain control and order for the human wave of movement. Korea is a mountainous land. They are limited in road and passageways. A movement of people on a scale of Bibical proportions would hamper supplies and fresh units moving north to counteract the North Korean army. They would be stuck in gridlock traffic and when a military unit is unable to quickly move, they are a target. Now crawling military traffic to the north could face attacks by North Korean special forces calling in artillery rounds or in disguise as South Korean civilians could get closer to units waiting in traffic and attact at close range. Currently, the US HQ is located in Seoul at Yongsan. This again is within range of North Korean artillery. As of this post, the US is wisely planning to relocate its forces to southern areas of Korea
It would be the hope for the North Koreans that the artillery would be able to cause mines that are buried in the DMZ to explode and to clear a path into the South. Don't forget that there are hidden tunnels that could go under some of the DMZ defences, would could isolate front line units.
Could North Korea with its army take over the whole of South Korea as they almost did back in 1950? I would say no. They can be as effective as how far their artillery can reach (again about south to Suwon). Special Forces can be effective in hitting targets in South Korea and Japan, but you must remember that special forces are not meant to secure a location for a long period of time, they are used for their quick shock value. Think of the movie, The Longest Day when the British Paratroopers are told to "Hold until relieve".
There is also the new wild card in North Korea. Would they attack with Nuclear and chemical weapons into South Korea. Again I would say no. If North Korea used a Nuclear device or launched one into South Korea and Japan. They US would not hesitate to use Nuclear weapons to turn North Korea into radioactive glass.
They North Koreans would probably threaten to use WMD if they are losing the war or to scare Japan to stay out of the conflict and not to support US logistical or airbases they would use to launch a counter attack.
We live in interesting times. North Korean government will not go gently into the night. After Dear Lead Kim Jong Il dies off (he is in bad health), I see the end to his family's reign. Probably a military government will take over and to see if they will come to reality about the poor economic situation in the North is anyones guess. North Korea realizes that they can no longer stay closed. The only problem is for South Koreas, they see billons of dollars required to fix the damage that Kim Jong Il and dad policies have done to the the quality of life from most North Koreans. The other greatest fear is what the world will find in abuses of basic human rights in the North. They will find crimes against humanity and concentration camps that will rival the ones used by the Nazis more than sixty years ago.
I would enjoy feed back on what you think about my views and if they are reasonable.


Mike K

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