Comparative military ranks of Korea

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The Comparative military ranks of Korea are the military insignia used by the two nations on the Korean Peninsula, those being the Republic of Korea Armed Forces (South Korea) and the Korean People's Army of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea). The United States Forces Korea personnel wear the ranks and insignia used by other service personnel of the United States Armed Forces in the territories of the United States.

In the South Korean armed forces, ranks fall into one of four categories: commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer, and junior enlisted ("Byeong"), in decreasing order of authority. Commissioned officer ranks are subdivided into "Jangseong"-level (general) officers, "Yeonggwan"-level (field-grade) officers, and "Wigwan"-level (company-grade) officers. The ranks of all three branches (the Army, Navy, and Air Force) of the South Korean Armed Forces share the same titles in Hangul. Most ranks of South and North Korea are identical, with some exceptions such as the supreme North Korean ranks.

The following table lists the comparative ranks of the militaries in Korea, including their rank titles and insignia. In this table, the North Korean military rank insignia shown is that of their Army field uniform shoulder boards; their parade uniforms and uniforms of other branches use alternative color schemes with the same basic design. The South Korean likewise have subdued versions of their insignia in each of their branches.

Special ranks[edit]

These ranks are honorary ranks and are not considered part of the main rank scheme[citation needed].

North Korean rank North Korean insignia Equivalent NATO Code
대원수 Tae wonsu (Grand Marshal)[a]
DPRK-Army-OF-12.svg
OF-12
공화국원수 Konghwaguk Wonsu (Marshal of the Republic)[b]
DPRK-Army-OF-11.svg
OF-11

Officer ranks[edit]

The shoulder boards and sleeve stripes of South Korean ranks apply only to their navies. North Korea's People's Army does not maintain a separate marine corps or naval infantry branch as part of their armed forces, although it does maintain two "Amphibious Sniper Brigades" as part of the North Korean Special Operation Force (NKSOF). North Korean insignia follow the Soviet pattern, while South Korean insignia follow a mix of United States and British rank insignia traditions.

No one held the five-star rank Wonsu in the history of the ROK Armed Forces.

Army ranks[edit]

Equivalent
NATO code
OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) and student officer
North Korea North Korea
(Edit)
Marshal of the PKA Vice marshal Captain general Superior general Middle general Junior general Captain commander Superior commander Middle commander Junior commander Captain lieutenant Superior lieutenant Middle lieutenant Junior lieutenant Unknown
Marshal of the KPA
(인민군원수)
Vice marshal
(차수)
Army general
(대장)
Colonel general
(상장)
Lieutenant general
(중장)
Major general
(소장)
Senior Colonel
(대좌)
Colonel
(상좌)
Lieutenant colonel
(중좌)
Major
(소좌)
Captain
(대위)
Senior lieutenant
(상위)
Lieutenant
(중위)
Junior lieutenant
(소위)


South Korea South Korea
(Edit)
Marshal of the RoK Superior general Middle general Junior general Lesser general Superior commander Middle commander Junior commander Superior lieutenant Middle lieutenant Junior lieutenant Unknown
Marshal
(원수)
General
(대장)
Lieutenant general
(중장)
Major general
(소장)
Brigadier general
(준장)
Colonel
(대령)
Lieutenant colonel
(중령)
Major
(소령)
Captain
(대위)
Lieutenant
(중위)
Junior lieutenant
(소위)


Equivalent
NATO code
OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) and student officer

Air force ranks[edit]

Equivalent
NATO code
OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) and student officer
North Korea North Korea
(Edit)
No equivalent Captain General Superior General Middle General Junior General Captain Commander Superior Commander Middle Commander Junior Commander Captain Lieutenant Superior Lieutenant Middle Lieutenant Junior Lieutenant Unknown
Air Force General
(대장)
Colonel General
(상장)
Lieutenant General
(중장)
Major General
(소장)
Senior Colonel
(대좌)
Colonel
(상좌)
Lieutenant Colonel
(중좌)
Major
(소좌)
Captain
(대위)
First Lieutenant
(상위)
Second Lieutenant
(중위)
Third Lieutenant
(소위)


South Korea South Korea
(Edit)
Marshal of the ROK Superior general Middle general Junior general Lesser general Superior commander Middle commander Junior commander Superior lieutenant Middle lieutenant Junior lieutenant Unknown
Marshal of the ROKAF
(Korean: 원수)
General
(Korean: 대장)
Lieutenant general
(Korean: 중장)
Major general
(Korean: 소장)
Brigadier general
(Korean: 준장)
Colonel
(Korean: 대령)
Lieutenant colonel
(Korean: 중령)
Major
(Korean: 소령)
Captain
(Korean: 대위)
Lieutenant
(Korean: 중위)
Junior lieutenant
(Korean: 소위)


Equivalent
NATO code
OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) and student officer

Naval ranks[edit]

ROK Navy commissioned officer ranks have two distinct sets of rank insignia: On dress uniform a series of stripes similar to Commonwealth naval ranks are worn; on service uniforms, working uniforms, and special uniform situations (combat utilities and flight suits), the rank insignia are the same as the equivalent rank in the Army or the Air Force.

Equivalent
NATO code
OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) and student officer
North Korea North Korea
(Edit)
No equivalent DPRK-Navy-OF-9.svg DPRK-Navy-OF-8.svg DPRK-Navy-OF-7.svg DPRK-Navy-OF-6.svg DPRK-Navy-OF-5b.svg DPRK-Navy-OF-5a.svg DPRK-Navy-OF-4.svg DPRK-Navy-OF-3.svg DPRK-Navy-OF-2.svg DPRK-Navy-OF-1c.svg DPRK-Navy-OF-1b.svg DPRK-Navy-OF-1a.svg No equivalent
Taejang
(대장)
Sangjang
(상장)
Chungjang
(중장)
Sojang
(소장)
Daechwa
(대좌)
Sangjwa
(상좌)
Chungjwa
(중좌)
Sojwa
(소좌)
Taewi
(대위)
Sangwi
(상위)
Chungwi
(중위)
Sowi
(소위)


South Korea South Korea
(Edit)
20.SKN-FADM.svg 19.SKN-ADM.svg 18.SKN-VADM.svg 17.SKN-RADM.svg 16.SKN-CDRE.svg 15.SKN-CAPT.svg 14.SKN-CDR.svg 13.SKN-LCDR.svg 12.SKN-LT.svg 11.SKN-LTJG.svg 10.SKN-ENS.svg No equivalent
Wonsu
(원수; 元帥)
Fleet admiral
Daejang
(대장; 大將)
Admiral
Jungjang
(중장; 中將)
Vice admiral
Sojang
(소장; 少將)
Rear admiral
Junjang
(준장; 準將)
Rear admiral
(lower half)
Daeryeong
(대령; 大領)
Captain
Jungnyeong
(중령; 中領)
Commander
Soryeong
(소령; 少領)
Lieutenant commander
Daewi
(대위; 大尉)
Lieutenant
Jungwi
(중위; 中尉)
Lieutenant (junior grade)
Sowi
(소위; 少尉)
Ensign


Equivalent
NATO code
OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) and student officer

Marine Corps[edit]

Equivalent
NATO code
OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) and student officer
South Korea South Korea
(Marine Corps)
No equivalent Superior General Middle General Junior General Lesser General Superior Commander Middle Commander Junior Commander Superior Lieutenant Middle Lieutenant Junior Lieutenant Unknown
Daejang
General
(대장)
Jungjang
Lieutenant general
(중장)
Sojang
Major general
(소장)
Junjang
Brigadier general
(준장)
Daeryeong
Colonel
(대령)
Jungnyeong
Lieutenant colonel
(중령)
Soryeong
Major
(소령)
Daewi
Captain
(대위)
Jungwi
First lieutenant
(중위)
Sowi
Second lieutenant
(소위)
Equivalent
NATO code
OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) and student officer

Warrant officer ranks[edit]

All branches of the South Korean armed forces maintain a single Warrant Officer rank known as Junwi. Warrant Officers fall in between non-commissioned and commissioned officers. The rank is denoted by a gold-colored Sowi insignia and, in the case of the South Korean Navy, a single broken sleeve stripe. The North Korean military does not maintain any equivalent Warrant Officer positions.

Grade Rank Abbreviation Army Air Force Navy Marine Corps
WO Warrant Officer
(준위)
WO
South Korea Army warrant officer insignia
South Korea Air Force warrant officer insignia
South Korea Navy warrant officer insignia
South Korea Navy warrant officer insignia

Enlisted ranks[edit]

Both North Korea and South Korea share the same enlisted rank structure among all of their military branches. Enlisted rank insignia differ however: The ROKAF uses a mix of American, British, and French practice while the KPA's insignia follow Soviet practice.

In the South Korean armed forces, personnel with ranks of Hasa through Wonsa are considered non-commissioned officers. There are enlisted ranks called "Corporal" and "Sergeant" in English, but they are not considered non-commissioned officer ranks, though they are treated as one if they hold an NCO position. Ideungbyeong (Korean: 이등병; Hanja: 2等兵), Ildeungbyeong (일등병; 1等兵), and Sangdeungbyeong (상등병; 上等兵) are commonly referred to as Ibyeong, Ilbyeong, and Sangbyeong respectively.

Army ranks[edit]

Equivalent
NATO code
OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
North Korea North Korea
(Edit)
Chief Master Sergeant rank insignia North Korea-V.svg Senior Sergeant rank insignia North Korea-V.svg Sergeant rank insignia North Korea-V.svg Junior Sergeant rank insignia North Korea-V.svg Senior Corporal rank insignia North Korea-V.svg Corporal rank insignia North Korea-V.svg Lance Corporal rank insignia North Korea-V.svg Private rank insignia North Korea-V.svg No equivalent
T'ŭkmu-sangsa
특무상사
Sangsa
상사
Chungsa
중사
Hasa
하사
Sanggŭp-pyŏngsa
상급병사
Chungŭp-pyŏngsa
중급병사
Hagŭp-pyŏngsa
하급병사
Chŏnsa
전사
Sergeant major Master sergeant Sergeant first class Staff sergeant Sergeant Corporal Lance corporal Private


South Korea South Korea
(Edit)
8.SKA-SGM.svg 7.SKA-MSG.svg 6.SKA-SFC.svg 5.SKA-SSG.svg 4.SKA-SGT.svg 3.SKA-CPL.svg 2.SKA-PFC.svg 1.SKA-PV2.svg No equivalent
Wonsa
원사
Sangsa
상사
Jungsa
중사
Hasa
하사
Byeongjang
병장
Sangdeungbyeong
상등병
Ildeungbyeong
일등병
Ideungbyeong
이등병
Sergeant major Master sergeant Sergeant first class Staff sergeant
(Sergeant junior grade)
Sergeant
(Master private)
Corporal
(Senior private)
Private first class Private (Second class) Recruit
Equivalent
NATO code
OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1

Air force ranks[edit]

Equivalent
NATO Code
OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
North Korea North Korea
(Edit)
Master Aircrew rank insignia v (North Korea).svg Flight Sergeant rank insignia v (North Korea).svg Sergeant rank insignia v (North Korean Air Force).svg Junior Sergeant rank insignia v (North Korean Air Force).svg Corporal rank insignia v (North Korean Air Force).svg Senior Aircraftman rank insignia v (North Korea).svg Leading Aircraftman rank insignia v (North Korea).svg Aircraftman rank insignia v (North Korea).svg No equivalent
T'ŭkmu-sangsa
특무상사
Sangsa
상사
Chungsa
중사
Hasa
하사
Sanggŭp-pyŏngsa
상급병사
Chungŭp-pyŏngsa
중급병사
Hagŭp-pyŏngsa
하급병사
Chŏnsa
전사
Sergeant Major Master Sergeant Sergeant First Class Staff Sergeant Sergeant Corporal Airman First Class Airman


South Korea South Korea
(Edit)
8.SKAF-SGM.svg 7.SKAF-MSG.svg 6.SKAF-SFC.svg 5.SKAF-SSG.svg 4.SKAF-SGT.svg 3.SKAF-CPL.svg 2.SKAF-PFC.svg 1.SKAF-PV2.svg No equivalent
Wonsa
(Korean: 원사)
Sangsa
(Korean: 상사)
Jungsa
(Korean: 중사)
Hasa
(Korean: 하사)
Byeongjang
(Korean: 병장)
Sangdeungbyeong
(Korean: 상등병)
Ildeungbyeong
(Korean: 일등병)
Ideungbyeong
(Korean: 이등병)
Chief Master Sergeant Senior Master Sergeant Master Sergeant Technical Sergeant Staff Sergeant Senior Airman Airman First Class Airman Airman Basic
Equivalent
NATO Code
OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1

Navy ranks[edit]

In reality, personnel in Sangsa and Wonsa rates are considered as chief petty officers (i.e. Chief Petty Officer and Master Chief Petty Officer, respectively) in the South Korean navy. Byeongjang and below are commonly referred to as "Subyeong" (seaman).

Equivalent
NATO code
OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
North Korea North Korea
(Edit)
Chief Petty Officer rank insignia vertical (North Korea).svg Petty Officer First Class rank insignia vertical (North Korea).svg Petty Officer Second Class rank insignia vertical (North Korea).svg Petty Officer Third Class rank insignia vertical (North Korea).svg Able Seaman rank insignia vertical (North Korea).svg Seaman rank insignia vertical (North Korea).svg Seaman Apprentice rank insignia vertical (North Korea).svg Seaman Recruit rank insignia vertical (North Korea).svg No equivalent
T'ŭkmu-sangsa
특무상사
Sangsa
상사
Chungsa
중사
Hasa
하사
Sanggŭp-pyŏngsa
상급병사
Chungŭp-pyŏngsa
중급병사
Hagŭp-pyŏngsa
하급병사
Chŏnsa
전사
Master chief petty officer Senior Chief Petty Officer Chief Petty Officer Petty Officer 1st Class Petty Officer 2nd Class Petty Officer 3rd Class Seaman Seaman Recruit


South Korea South Korea
(Edit)
8.SKN-MCPO.svg 7.SKN-SCPO.svg 6.SKN-CPO.svg 5.SKN-PO1.svg 4.SKN-P02.svg 3.SKN-PO3.svg 2.SKN-SFC.svg 1.SKN-SN.svg No equivalent
Wonsa
원사
Sangsa
상사
Jungsa
중사
Hasa
하사
Byeongjang
병장
Sangdeungbyeong
상등병
Ildeungbyeong
일등병
Ideungbyeong
이등병
Master chief petty officer Senior chief petty officer
(Chief petty officer)
Chief petty officer
(Senior petty officer)
Petty officer 1st class
(Petty officer)
Petty officer 2nd class
(Leading seaman)
Petty officer 3rd class
(Able seaman)
Seaman
(Seaman 1st class)
Seaman apprentice
(Seaman 2nd class)
Seaman recruit
Equivalent
NATO code
OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1

Marine Corps[edit]

Equivalent
NATO code
OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
South Korea South Korea
(Marine Corps)
ROKMC-OR-9.svg ROKMC-OR-8.svg ROKMC-OR-7.svg ROKMC-OR-6.svg Rokm4.png Rokm3.png Rokm2.png Rokm1.png No equivalent
Wonsa
원사
Sangsa
상사
Jungsa
중사
Hasa
하사
Byeongjang
병장
Sangdeungbyeong
상등병
Ildeungbyeong
일등병
Ideungbyeong
이등병
Sergeant Major Master Sergeant Gunnery Sergeant Staff Sergeant Sergeant Corporal Lance Corporal Private Recruit
Equivalent
NATO code
OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

In the article, all South Korean ranks are spelled accordingly with the Revised Romanization of Korean system; all North Korean ranks use the McCune-Reischauer system.

  1. ^ Highest possible political-military rank of North Korea and is intended to be an honorific title for the nation’s Great Leaders.
  2. ^ Highest political-military rank reserved only for Supreme Leader of North Korea.