From triumph to triumph!The Korean People's Army was formed from Kim Il-sung's Korean guerrillas allied with the Soviet Union (and led by the latter) in 1932. By the time of Korea's liberation from the Japanese in 1945, the guerrilla force had been transformed into a well-equipped army, to the point of enabling them to invade South Korea in 1950. Although they were beaten back by a United Nations force spearheaded by none other than Yanks with Tanks, the KPA eventually recovered due to intervention by the Chinese with Chopper Supportnote and, to a lesser degree, the Reds with Rockets. North Korea is the most militarized country in the world today; they have the third-largest army in the world behind China and America, with about a fifth of its able-bodied men in the military and the rest in the reserve or WPRG and over 30% of national GDP going to military expenses. It has a Worker and Peasant Guard as a paramilitary, numbering 3 to 5 million (though they are mostly armed with World War II Weaponry), a relatively huge, if outdated, weapons industry, and has its countryside dotted with bases of all sorts. This has led to the saying that North Korea isn't a country with a military, it's a military with a country. North Korea also developed its own weapons industry, starting with the Nodong missile (the Trope Namer), and eventually nuclear weapons, cheating the United Nations inspectors in their "peaceful" quest for nuclear energy. Ironically, they've started their nuclear program in earnest since US, hoping the regime to crumble after Kim Il-Sung's death and wishing to push them a little, in turn cheated Northerners out of the already agreed genuinely peaceful nuclear energy deal in late Nineties. Unfortunately, this only reaffirmed Koreans' belief that Westerners cannot be trusted. Of course, Kim Jong-un is the Commander in Chief, in his capacity as Chairman of the National Defense Commission. The Korean Worker's Party also has control over the KPA to ensure that no one in the army will challenge Kim. Though technically, the Commander in Chief of the KPA is still Kim Il-sung, as he was declared "Eternal President", followed by his second in command Kim Jong-il, "Eternal Chairman of the National Defence Commission". Both of these people are dead, by the way. The North Korean People's Army is composed of the KPA Ground Force, the Korean People's Navy, and the Korean People's Air Force, plus the Korean People's Strategic Rocket Forces (Formerly known as the Artillery Guidance Bureau) which handles North Korea's nuclear missiles...meaning that they emulated the PRC's military structure. The People's Republic of China is also their biggest foreign provider of materiel and has been allied with them since 1961.
O Leadership of the Revolution!
Thousands of lives become guns and shells,
Ready to defend you!
—North Korean patriotic song, "We Will Safeguard the Leadership of the Revolution with Desperate Courage!"
Korean People's Ground Forces:The KPA has approximately 1 million personnel with a mix of mechanized, armored, and artillery units. They have one of the largest collections of armored vehicles, having over twice the number of armored vehicles than its local adversaries. However, though they have numbers over the South Koreans, they still have to work with Cold War era equipment. Even though they've tried to aggressively upgrade their equipment, it's still mostly obsolete compared to the South Koreans and their American allies. The KPA also has the largest special forces organization of any army in the world, with over 90,000 personnel. They are trained specifically to fight in North Korea's notoriously mountainous terrain. They've also historically been very successful in covert incursions into the South's territory using the tunnels dug under the DMZ. As far as equipment goes the KPAGF has some modern weaponry like Type 88 Assault Rifles (a AK-74 clone) with awesome helical magazines and Pokpung-Ho tanks. And on the other hand they have some ancient weaponry T-34-85 tanks and PPSH-41 Submachine guns in reserve.
Korean People's NavyThe KPN is the lowest priority of the North Korean armed forces, and hence the least funded and advanced. Their entire navy, barring the submarine forces, is essentially an obsolete brown-water flotilla, consisting of small, aging boats that cannot go out more than 50 nautical miles from the coast. However, these small craft do excel at covert insertions for special forces, and their submarine fleet is notably better than their surface navy. The KPN is also known for having a large stockpile of sea mines, and it's generally assumed that they will be used liberally to fend off potential amphibious assaults. The Navy itself is divided into two separate fleets, East and West, but neither fleet is in a position to support the other. The North Korean navy mainly exists to guard the flanks of the ground force rather than to conduct its own offensive operations. The North Korea has been known to use the KPN to aggressively patrol its waters, especially in the contested waters near the 38th parallel, an issue that has yet to resolved. KPN ships have been known to attack and capture ships that dare venture too close, regardless of nationality.
Korean People's Air ForceLike the KPA and KPN, the KPAF does not lack in quantity but has serious issues with quality. The majority of their 1700 aircraft are Cold War era relics, which only roughly 400 more modern fighters acquired from Russia and China. They even have a number of biplane transports that they favor because they can be operated from short, improvised landing strips and are notoriously hard to detect on radar. KPAF military doctrine is mostly based off the old Soviet air doctrine, as well as their experiences with American heavy bombing during the Korean War. As a result, the KPAF is mostly concerned with air defence, mostly consisting of fighters and interceptors. This is complemented by the worlds densist air defence network, with some 12,000 Anti-Aircraft Guns, up to 1000 heavy SAM's, and some 17,000 Man Portable Air Defence systems.
North Korean NukesThere was much debate as to whether North Korea has nukes or not, until they've finally demonstrated that yes, they do have them, in the early Oughts. Apparently, there were several false starts, including the very first genuine nuclear test that seemed to "fizzle"note , but now they seem to be on track. This pretty much surprised a lot of people, as the general consensus was that North Korea lacks the resources and technology to create a fully functional nuclear device, and that technology gap was projected to close much later. Still, it looks like their nukes are representative of the Fifties technology that was used to create them, and thus are very bulky and heavy, severely limiting the delivery options. KPAF lacks heavy bombers that could deliver these unwieldy devices to their targets, and these bombers stay little chance against ROK's air defense anyway. TBMs like Scud could be adapted to carry them, and apparently early Taepodong missiles were just that, but they are limited in distance and could barely hit Japan. That's why they are now mostly used as a bargaining chips, with North threatening to conduct a nuclear test each time its foreign relations deteriorate. North Korea has two missiles that could potentially be used as ICBMs, the Nodong (a fitting name, all things considered) and improved versions of Taepodong rockets. However, the reliability of these rockets is much debated (the Unha orbital launcher, which failed spectacularly each time it launched,note is almost universally considered to be a barely-modified Taepodong-2). To be honest, thought, failures are pretty normal during testing of the new rockets, and it's not that the North has had many opportunities to test them, given the international pressure. So the rocket launches ended up in the same "bargaining chip threats" bin as the nuclear tests. ...Or not as the case may be. On the 12th of December 2012, North Korea finally succeeded in putting a satellite in orbit. Their three-stage missile flew south over the Yellow Sea and Okinawa before debris crashed into the sea northeast of the Philippines. Seriously though, either this is the last in a long bout of saber rattling, or a sign that North Korea is developing a ballistic delivery system to strike at the west coast of the United States.
North Korean military in fiction:General
Heh heh...No Dongs. Now they have some Type o' Dong.