Friday, 16 October 2020

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By Joost Oliemans and Stijn Mitzer
 
The DPRK. Shrouded in mysticism and secrecy, the nation represents an absolute unicum for the military analyst. No other country in the world manages to attract so much scrutiny to its controversial antics, yet divulge so little of material importance about its inner workings. This might be at the heart of why this country specifically has gripped our attention for so many years, and drawn us to write this book about its largely mysterious armed forces. The subject is broad and an aversion towards narrowing down the scope of this project means it has run into numerous delays along the way whilst the word count steadily kept rising. Unpleasant as this may have been in the meantime, this has enabled us to write a more complete treatise of both the Korean People Army's history and its current military convolutions than we could once have hoped for. The common thread found within these pages on all matters related to the North Korean military is proudly extolled on the cover: "On the Path of Songun" it is a subtitle fitting to the subject whichever way you regard it. To the North Koreans, "Songun" is the military first doctrine introduced by Kim Jong Un's father, Kim Jong Il; a supposed masterplan aimed at preserving the nation's sovereignty. Incidently, "On the Path of Songun" is also the title of one of the DPRK's many military documentaries – a highly welcome source of information for analysts like us. Viewed from another angle however, the phrase embodies the confrontational direction that has come to characterise North Korean politics in recent decades. Plastered across headlines through ever escalating tensions and an inexhaustable string of missile launches and atomic bomb tests, the question this book aims to answer about North Korea's armed forces is implicit to this subtitle: Where did the path of Songun lead them, and where will it next?