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Comparative military ranks of Korea


Comparative military ranks of Korea

Comparative military ranks of Korea refer to the ranks and insignia maintained by the three primary military powers present on the Korean Peninsula, those being the Republic of Korea Armed Forces (South Korea), the Korean People's Army of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), and the military forces of the United States in South Korea.

In the South Korean armed forces, ranks fall into one of four categories: commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer, and enlisted, in decreasing order of authority. Commissioned officer ranks are subdivided into "Janggwan"-level (general) officers, "Yeonggwan"-level (field-grade) officers, and "Wi-gwan"-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 and U.S. militaries likewise have subdued versions of their insignia in each of their branches.

(Note on romanization: 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.)


  • Special ranks 1
  • Officer ranks 2
  • Enlisted ranks 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5

Special ranks

These ranks are honorary ranks and are not considered part of the main rank scheme.
North Korean rank North Korean insignia U.S. Army/U.S. Air Force/U.S. Marine Corps equivalent U.S. Navy equivalent
대원수 Dae wonsu (Grand Marshal)[1]
공화국원수 Konghwaguk Wonsu (Marshal of the Republic)[2]

Officer ranks

The shoulder boards and sleeve stripes of American and South Korean ranks apply only to their navies. Neither the U.S. Marine Corps or ROK Marine Corps maintains a five star "General" rank. 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.

장교 (將校) Janggyo (Commissioned officer ranks)
NATO Rank Code North Korean rank North Korean insignia South Korean rank South Korean insignia U.S. Army/U.S. Air Force/U.S. Marine Corps equivalent U.S. Navy equivalent American insignia
장관 (將官) Janggwan (General officer/Flag officer ranks)
OF-10 원수 Wonsu (Marshal of the KPA)[3]
원수 (元帥) Wonsu (Marshal of the ROK/Fleet Admiral of the ROK)[4] General of the Army/Air Force Fleet Admiral
OF-9 차수 Ch'asu (Vice Marshal)[5]
대장 (大將) Daejang (General/Admiral) General Admiral
OF-8 대장 Taejang (General of the Army/Air Force, Fleet Admiral)
중장 (中將) Jungjang (Lieutenant General/Vice Admiral) Lieutenant General Vice Admiral
상장 Sangjang (Colonel General/Admiral)
OF-7 중장 Chungjang (Lieutenant General/Vice Admiral)
소장 (少將) Sojang (Major General/Rear Admiral) Major General Rear Admiral (upper half)
OF-6 소장 Sojang (Major General/Rear Admiral)
준장 (准將) Junjang (Brigadier General/Commodore Admiral) Brigadier General Rear Admiral (lower half)
영관 (領官) Yeonggwan (Field-grade officer ranks)
OF-5 대좌 Taejwa (Senior Colonel/
Senior Captain)
대령 (大領) Daeryeong (Colonel/Captain) Colonel Captain
상좌 Sangjwa (Colonel/Captain)
OF-4 중좌 Chungjwa (Lieutenant Colonel/Commander)
중령 (中領) Jungnyeong (Lieutenant Colonel/Commander) Lieutenant Colonel Commander
OF-3 소좌 Sojwa (Major/Lieutenant Commander)
소령 (少領) Soryeong (Major/Lieutenant Commander) Major Lieutenant Commander
위관 (尉官) Wi-gwan (Company-grade officer ranks)
OF-2 대위 Taewi (Captain/Captain Lieutenant)
대위 (大尉) Daewi (Captain/Lieutenant) Captain Lieutenant
상위 Sangwi (Senior Lieutenant)
OF-1 중위 Chungwi (Lieutenant)
중위 (中尉) Jungwi (First Lieutenant/Lieutenant (junior grade)) First Lieutenant Lieutenant (junior grade)
소위 Sowi (Junior Lieutenant)
소위 (少尉) Sowi (Second Lieutenant/Ensign) Second Lieutenant Ensign

Enlisted ranks

Both North Korea and South Korea share the same enlisted rank structure among all of their military branches. They also have 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.

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.

Enlisted rank insignia differ however: The ROKAF uses a mix of US, British and French practice while the KPA's insignia follow Soviet practice.

병사 (兵士) Byeong-sa (Soldier ranks)
NATO Rank Code North Korean rank North Korean insignia South Korean rank South Korean insignia U.S. Army equivalent U.S. Army insignia U.S. Air Force equivalent USAF insignia U.S. Navy equivalent USN insignia
USN insignia
U.S. Marine Corps equivalent USMC insignia
준사관 (准士官) Junsa-gwan (Warrant officer ranks)
rank insignia
no equivalent
준위 (准尉) Junwi (Warrant Officer)
Warrant officer (United States)
U.S. Army warrant officer 1 rank insignia
no equivalent no insgnia Chief Warrant Officer Two Warrant Officer
USMC warrant officer 1 rank insignia
부사관 (副士官) Busa-gwan (Non-commissioned officer ranks)
no equivalent
현사 (賢士) Hyunsa (Command Sergeant Major,
Command Chief Master Sergeant,
Command Master Chief Petty Officer)
Sergeant Major Chief Master Sergeant Master Chief Petty Officer Sergeant Major
OR-8 특무상사 T'ŭkmusangsa (Sergeant Major/Master Chief Petty Officer)
원사 (元士) Wonsa (Sergeant Major,
Chief Master Sergeant
/Master Chief Petty Officer)
Master Sergeant Senior Master Sergeant Senior Chief Petty Officer Master Sergeant
OR-7 상사 Sangsa (Master Sergeant/Senior Chief Petty Officer)
상사 (上士) Sangsa (Master Sergeant/Senior Chief Petty Officer)
Sergeant First Class Master Sergeant Chief Petty Officer Gunnery Sergeant
OR-6 중사 Chungsa (Sergeant First Class/Chief Petty Officer)
중사 (中士) Jungsa (Sergeant First Class/Chief Petty Officer)
Staff Sergeant Technical Sergeant Petty Officer First Class Staff Sergeant
OR-5 하사 Hasa (Staff Sergeant/Petty Officer 1st Class)
하사 (下士) Hasa (Staff Sergeant/Petty Officer 1st Class)
Sergeant Staff Sergeant Petty Officer Second Class Sergeant
no equivalent
병장 (兵長) Byeongjang (Sergeant/Petty Officer 2nd Class) Corporal
no equivalent
Petty Officer Third Class Corporal
(兵) Byeong (Enlisted ranks)
OR-4 상급병사 Sanggŭp-pyŏngsa (Sergeant/Petty Officer 2nd Class)
병장 (兵長) Byeongjang (Sergeant/Petty Officer 2nd Class) Specialist Senior Airman
no equivalent
no equivalent
상병 (上兵) Sangbyeong (Corporal/Petty Officer 3rd Class)
OR-3 중급병사 Chungŭp-pyŏngsa (Corporal/Petty Officer 3rd Class)
일병 (一兵) Ilbyeong (Private First Class,/Airman First Class,
Private First Class Airman First Class Seaman Lance Corporal
OR-2 하급병사 Hagŭp-pyŏngsa (Private First Class,/Airman First Class,
이병 (二兵) Ibyeong (Private,
Airman/Seaman Apprentice)
Private (PV2) Airman Seaman Apprentice Private First Class
OR-1 전사 Chŏnsa (Private,
Seaman Recruit)
장정 (壯丁) Jangjeong (Recruit)[6]
no insignia
Private (PVT)
no insignia
Airman Basic
no insignia
Seaman Recruit
no insignia
no insignia

See also


  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.
  3. ^ Highest military rank of North Korea, combined political-military position. Only three people where promoted to this rank.
  4. ^ No one has yet held the five-star rank of Won-su in the history of the ROK Armed Forces.
  5. ^ The rank is senior to that of daejang (general) and junior to that of wonsu (marshal). The rank is seldom bestowed upon the professional military, also combined political-military position.
  6. ^ The Jangjeong rank is the official title of an entry-level recruit in the South Korean military, which they hold until they are assigned a higher rank following their basic training. More common terms include 무등병 (無等兵) Mudeungbyeong (rank-less soldier) and 훈련병 (訓練兵) Hullyeonbyeong (trainee).
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