The AN-2 transport plane is hard to detect using radar due to its low-fly capability. (Internet photo)
The special operations branch of the Korean People's Army, tasked with conducting asymmetric warfare against the United States and South Korea, is reported to comprise 200,000 soldiers, according to the Seoul-based Chosun Ilbo.
As the South Korean government's defense white paper noted in 2010, North Korean special forces consist of 60,000 specialized troops and 140,000 light infantry soldiers. General Walter Sharp, the former commander of the South Korean-US Combined Forces Command stated that the infantry soldiers are lightly armed and trained to infiltrate deep behind enemy lines to destroy key installations and engage in black ops.
Specialized troops may infiltrate South Korea on foot or through underground tunnels, General Sharp said. They are also able to land at major ports in the South with 130 hovercraft and 260 landing vessels. The North Korean air force's 170 aging but operable low-flying AN-2 transport planes introduced from Russia and 130 helicopters can also be mobilized to deploy airborne troops as well.
The United States only has about 50,000 soldiers in its special forces while South Korea has fewer than 20,000. "The havoc-raising potential of North Korea's special forces has grown as their numbers have increased and their training has shifted to terrorist tactics developed by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan," General Sharp told the Washington Post. "They are very capable, and they will employ these tactics."
All members of North Korean special forces have been die-hard Kim family loyalists since the establishment of the unit, Sharp said, adding that to avoid capture when they are defeated, all soldiers are ordered to kill themselves. Despite the fact that the weapons they use are all Cold War era relics, they are still a deadly threat to the national security of South Korea, he said.