In South Korea, we often use the terms such as “house poor” or “car poor” to describe those who are living in a poor condition after spending too much on a house or a car.
In that sense, North Korea is “WMD poor”, and is still widely using pre-WW2 equipment, after spending a tremendous amount of its national resources upgrading its Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).
Until now, many South Korean military experts believed that the Korean People’s Army (KPA) would use the archaic “human-wave strategy” during times of war to overcome the disadvantages coming from its outdated equipment.
But we may have been wrong.
NOT JUST A WALKIE-TALKIE COMPANY
Earlier this week, Reuters reported on a “North Korean spy agency” running an “arms operation out of Malaysia.”
According to the piece, “North Korean intelligence agents” were behind the setting up and running of a military equipment company called Glocom in Malaysia: an act, it argued, that would be a direct violation of UN sanctions.
But it is not the violation of sanctions that worries me, but what the company’s product brochures show: that the KPA has made huge progress in the technology available to it.
North Korea is “WMD poor” – or so we thought
What Glocom is selling is not just walkie-talkies, it is military equipment that will significantly improve the KPA’s C4I capability, should it be implemented correctly.
This acronym stands for Command, Control, Communication, Computer and Intelligence, and is a core communications system that could be considered the “nerve system” of a modern army.
Those who have served in the ROK military would have heard of PRC-999K, the radio system that each company or platoon would have had, a small scale C4I.
The KJCCS (Korean Joint Command and Control System), the much larger-scale system used by the ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff, would be an example of a C4I that is equivalent to the “spinal nerve” and “brain” of the ROK military.
All of the equipment that Glocom has allegedly sold so far hints at the level of KPA’s C4I capability, and if what Glocom is claiming is true, then it is highly possible that the KPA has so far surpassed our expectations.
WHAT DO THEY SELL?
Glocom was established in 1996 and its first product was the GR-200 radio system, a VHF (Very high frequency) radio that soldiers can mount on their back and carry around, and it plays the same role as the PRC-999K, the major ROK military radio system I have described above.
PRC-999K adopted a “Frequency Hopping” method to prevent hostile forces from eavesdropping or jamming the signal but, the problem is, so does the GR-200.
The KPA has made big progress in the technology available to it
GR-200 is far superior to the ㅁ-3, the major DPRK military radio system which we’ve been aware of for a while. GR-150, the follow-up model to the GR-200, is a smaller and is far more advanced than PRC-999K.
The “Frequency Hopping” function is now digitized, and supports AES-256 (Advanced Encryption Standard-256), an encryption method widely used by both military and civilian networks.
One of the most significant features of GR-150 is its GPS, and as it is installed as the standard feature of the radio, the user can update their location almost immediately.
This function, if used by the DPRK special forces during an infiltration of Seoul, would come in handy for them to request long-range artillery fire support.
GR-250 is the modified version of GR-150, which also supports SDR (Software Defined Radio) technology. This enables one to change radio communication methods and frequencies without the need to change antenna or equipment, providing a far wider range of use than existing radios.
BATTLE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
The radios shown on its brochure are already far beyond the KPA’s known capability, but other products that Glocom claims to have produced are an even greater threat to the ROK. The GS-2600, for example, is a communication system that can control an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and transmit images that the UAV has taken.
A UAV equipped with GS-2600 can be controlled 100 kilometers away by remote control and can send 640*480 pixel images compressed in H.264 Codec in real time, transmitting its current location every second using its GPS.
Theoretically, this equipment is good enough to be used on a KRQ-101 Night Intruder 300, the ROK Tactical UAV.
Glocom’s brochure uses the Soviet UAV Yakovlev Pchela from the 1990s and an unidentified Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) as two types of vehicles that can be loaded with the GS-2600 system.
If Glocom’s claims are true, then it means that the DPRK has successfully modified the Yakovlev Pchela from its previous 60-kilometer range to up to 100 kilometers, and developed or has already adopted the USV for coastal reconnaissance missions.
The most significant feature of Glocom’s brochure was GR-930, a battle management system that can be integrated with various equipment or software, aimed at transmitting the strategic situation and tactical map to the command.
The radios shown on its brochure are far beyond that of the KPA’s known capability
KJCCS (Korean Joint Command and Control System), the ROK system described above, is used by the whole of the ROK military and is very similar to what the GR-930 may offer.
On the top left of the image above, the “42 naval special warfare force” has occupied airfield-2, and the message shows that the force suffered the death of two, with one injured.
At the bottom of the screen, in yellow text, it reads “order transmission to 42 success (42 naval special warfare force, cover the airdrop of 20 aviation special warfare force).”
On the right side of the user interface, there are icons that can be overlaid on the map to display the ROK’s military bases or major buildings in its cities, provinces and even districts.
It even shows where the ROK army units – such as divisions or battalions – are located, what enemies they are engaging, where to attack and to defend.
The five red arrows show the KPA invading South Korea’s west coast: regions such as Paju, Cheorwon, Hwacheon, and Yanggu, while the green shows the ROK forces’ defense line and the combat area.
If what we see is what the DPRK’s top commanders are using, then, at least in the field of battle management, both sides would use similar technologies if a war broke out.
Their conventional weapons are too outdated to synergize with this cutting-edge radio system
Of course, North Korea is well known for its “government scale” frauds and is an expert in exaggerating their capability or technology – the products for sale may very well be non-existent.
For cutting-edge communication devices like these, knowing how to fix errors and secure their durability is essential.
Otherwise, they would not work or last long during a war, and the same goes for the battle management system.
One ROK military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told me that the equipment Glocom is selling has not reached a dangerous level, and would not have brought much of an improvement to the KPA’s capability.
Even under the assumption that their communication methods have considerably improved, the source said, their conventional weapons are too outdated to synergize with this cutting-edge radio system.
For example, an ROK soldier with a GPS-linked radio would be able to send coordinates to ROK self-propelled artillery units, which would automatically aim at the target using the transmitted data.
However, the DPRK’s old self-propelled guns, even if they were transmitted with the digitalized coordinates, would still need a manual calculation to set the angle of the gun and the impact force of gunpowder.
Still, the ROK should not underestimate the DPRK’s old conventional weapons, as we know so little about them. One thing is certain: So need to wake up and stop thinking that the ROK has absolute superiority in C4I against the DPRK.
Translated by JH Ahn
Featured Image: DPRK Today
Join the influential community of members who rely on NK News original news and in-depth reporting.
Subscribe to read the remaining 1384 words of this article.