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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.

United Islamic Khizerkhelist Nation

(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[]

장교 (將校) Janggyo (Commissioned officer ranks)
North Korean rank North Korean insignia U.S. Army/U.S. Air Force/U.S. Marine Corps equivalent U.S. Navy equivalent American insignia
대원수 Dae wonsu (Grand Marshal)[lower-alpha 1]
Generalissimo rank insignia (North Korea)
US-O12 insignia
US Admiral of Navy insignia
공화국원수 Konghwaguk Wonsu (Marshal of the DPRK)[lower-alpha 2]
Marshal of the DPRK rank insignia

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)[lower-alpha 3]
Marshal of the KPA rank insignia
원수 (元帥) Wonsu (Marshal of the ROK/Fleet Admiral of the ROK)[lower-alpha 4] 원수 General of the Army/Air Force Fleet Admiral US Navy O11 insignia
OF-9 차수 Ch'asu (Vice Marshal)[lower-alpha 5]
Vice-Marshal rank insignia (North Korea)
대장 (大將) Daejang (General/Admiral) 대장 견장 General Admiral US Navy O10 insignia
OF-8 대장 Taejang (General of the Army/Air Force, Fleet Admiral)
General of the Army rank insignia (North Korea)
중장 (中將) Jungjang (Lieutenant General/Vice Admiral) 중장 견장 Lieutenant General Vice Admiral US Navy O9 insignia
상장 Sangjang (Colonel General/Admiral)
Colonel General rank insignia (North Korea)
OF-7 중장 Chungjang (Lieutenant General/Vice Admiral)
Lieutenant General rank insignia (North Korea)
소장 (少將) Sojang (Major General/Rear Admiral) 소장 견장 Major General Rear Admiral (upper half) US Navy O8 insignia
OF-6 소장 Sojang (Major General/Rear Admiral)
Major General rank insignia (North Korea)
준장 (准將) Junjang (Brigadier General/Commodore Admiral) 준장 견장 Brigadier General Rear Admiral (lower half) US Navy O7 insignia
영관 (領官) Yeonggwan (Field-grade officer ranks)
OF-5 대좌 Taejwa (Senior Colonel/
Senior Captain)
Senior Colonel rank insignia (North Korea)
대령 (大領) Daeryeong (Colonel/Captain) 대령 견장 Colonel Captain US Navy O6 insignia
상좌 Sangjwa (Colonel/Captain)
Colonel rank insignia (North Korea)
OF-4 중좌 Chungjwa (Lieutenant Colonel/Commander)
Lieutenant Colonel rank insignia (North Korea)
중령 (中領) Jungnyeong (Lieutenant Colonel/Commander) 중령 견장 Lieutenant Colonel Commander US Navy O5 insignia
OF-3 소좌 Sojwa (Major/Lieutenant Commander)
Major rank insignia (North Korea)
소령 (少領) Soryeong (Major/Lieutenant Commander) 소령 견장 Major Lieutenant Commander US Navy O4 insignia
위관 (尉官) Wi-gwan (Company-grade officer ranks)
OF-2 대위 Taewi (Captain/Captain Lieutenant)
Captain rank insignia (North Korea)
대위 (大尉) Daewi (Captain/Lieutenant) 대위 견장 Captain Lieutenant US Navy O3 insignia
상위 Sangwi (Senior Lieutenant)
Senior Lieutenant rank insignia (North Korea)
OF-1 중위 Chungwi (Lieutenant)
Lieutenant rank insignia (North Korea)
중위 (中尉) Jungwi (First Lieutenant/Lieutenant (junior grade)) 중위 견장 First Lieutenant Lieutenant (junior grade) US Navy O2 insignia
소위 Sowi (Junior Lieutenant)
Junior Lieutenant rank insignia (North Korea)
소위 (少尉) Sowi (Second Lieutenant/Ensign) 소위 견장 Second Lieutenant Ensign US Navy O1 insignia

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.

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)
no equivalent
준위 (准尉) Junwi (Warrant Officer)
Sergeant Major US Army E-9 SGM Chief Master Sergeant E9a USAF CMSGT Master Chief Petty Officer MCPO GC MCPO collar Sergeant Major USMC-E9-SGM
부사관 (副士官) Busa-gwan (Non-commissioned officer ranks)
OR-8 특무상사 T'ŭkmu-sangsa (Sergeant Major,
Chief Master Sergeant
/Master Chief Petty Officer)
Chief Master Sergeant rank insignia (North Korea)
원사 (元士) Wonsa (Sergeant Major,
Chief Master Sergeant
/Master Chief Petty Officer)
Master Sergeant US Army E-8 MSG Senior Master Sergeant E8a USAF SMSGT Senior Chief Petty Officer SCPO GC SCPO collar Master Sergeant USMC-E8-MSG
OR-7 상사 Sangsa (Master Sergeant/Senior Chief Petty Officer)
Senior Sergeant rank insignia (North Korea)
상사 (上士) Sangsa (Master Sergeant/Senior Chief Petty Officer)
Sergeant First Class US Army E-7 Master Sergeant E7a USAF MSGT Chief Petty Officer CPO GC CPO collar Gunnery Sergeant USMC-E7
OR-6 중사 Chungsa (Sergeant First Class/Chief Petty Officer)
Sergeant rank insignia (North Korea)
중사 (中士) Jungsa (Sergeant First Class/Chief Petty Officer)
Staff Sergeant US Army E-6 Technical Sergeant E6 USAF TSGT Petty Officer First Class PO1 NOGC PO1 Collar Silver USN Staff Sergeant USMC-E6
OR-5 하사 Hasa (Staff Sergeant/Petty Officer 1st Class)
Junior Sergeant rank insignia (North Korea)
하사 (下士) Hasa (Staff Sergeant/Petty Officer 1st Class)
Sergeant US Army E-5 Staff Sergeant E5 USAF SSGT Petty Officer Second Class PO2 NOGC PO2 Collar Silver USN Sergeant USMC-E5
no equivalent
no equivalent
Corporal US Army E-4
no equivalent
Petty Officer Third Class PO3 NOGC PO3 collar Corporal USMC-E4
(兵) Byeong (Enlisted ranks)
OR-4 상급병사 Sanggŭp-pyŏngsa (Sergeant/Petty Officer 2nd Class)
Senior Corporal rank insignia (North Korea)
병장 (兵長) Byeongjang (Sergeant/Petty Officer 2nd Class) ROK Army Byeongjang Specialist US Army E-4 SPC Senior Airman E4 USAF SAM
no equivalent
no equivalent
상병 (上兵) Sangbyeong (Corporal/Petty Officer 3rd Class) ROK Army Sangbyeong
OR-3 중급병사 Chungŭp-pyŏngsa (Corporal/Petty Officer 3rd Class)
Corporal rank insignia (North Korea)
일병 (一兵) Ilbyeong (Private First Class,/Airman First Class,
File:ROK Army Ilbyeong.png Private First Class US Army E-3 Airman First Class E3 USAF AM1 Seaman E3 SM USN USN - Seaman Lance Corporal USMC-E3
OR-2 하급병사 Hagŭp-pyŏngsa (Private First Class,/Airman First Class,
Lance Сorporal rank insignia (North Korea)
이병 (二兵) Ibyeong (Private
Airman/Seaman Apprentice)
File:ROK Army Ibyeong.png Private (PV2) US Army E-2 Airman E2 USAF AM Seaman Apprentice E2 SM USN USN - Seaman Apprentice Private First Class USMC-E2
OR-1 전사 Chŏnsa (Private,
Seaman Recruit)
Private rank insignia (North Korea)
장정 (壯丁) Jangjeong (Recruit)[lower-alpha 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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