The National Post has an interesting set of infographics detailing the strength of North Korea’s conventional forces.
I made an attempt to create a condensed version:
But if it’s too condensed, it kind of loses its punch, so it might be wiser to study the original. The bottom line: they have a scary number of surface ships, submarines, landing craft, torpedoes, aircraft both relatively modern (e.g., Mig-29) and ancient (biplanes!), and a huge army with a large number of artillery pieces, shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles, SCUDs, you name it. Probably some non-conventional (chemical) stuff, too, that they would not hesitate to use. And on top of that, maybe a few crude nukes, albeit without decent delivery systems.
Then again… remember Saddam Hussein’s scary conventional army back in 1991, the world’s third or fourth largest at the time, and battle-tested during the Iraq-Iran war, equipped with SCUDs and WMDs? Didn’t do him much good, did it. Seeing SCUDs arrive in Saudi neighborhoods was a scary sight, but in the end, the damage they did was negligible. So maybe the numbers do not tell the whole story after all.
Still, a war in the Korean peninsula would be devastating for South Korea especially, but also for the world economy. And although I have no doubt that North Korea would vanish as a result, reintegrating the North would be a task that’s perhaps even harder than winning the war.
The biplanes are actually rather useful as special forces transports, because they don’t have all that much of a radar signature, and they fly so low and so slowly that most radars will reject the contact as a ground vehicle unless they’ve been adjusted not to do so. But really, nobody in professional military circles is worried about NK. The main reasons they’ve survived this long are uncertainty over the intent of Russia / China, and the sure knowledge that reintegration would be a huge pain for all involved