Meet the "Koksan" Big Guns North Korea Has Aimed at South Korea

Sebastien Roblin

Key Point: These artillery pieces might be old, but they are still able to kill people. South Korea knows its capital would be in danger and that is why it has built such a big military.

Seoul has to cope with an unusual urban planning program for a huge, modern metropolis: the northern side of the capital lies little more than thirty miles from the border of North Korea, within range of hundreds of enemy artillery pieces—a zone that Pyongyang has threatened to turn into a “sea of fire.” City planners have gamely built more than twenty-three square kilometers of bomb shelters in the South Korean capital as a precaution.

While the growing threat posed by Pyongyang’s ballistic missiles, potentially with nuclear armament, is of greater concern, the effects of a sustained deluge of high explosive or chemical shells on a city with a population of ten million—greater than New York City—is still hair-raising to consider.

However, only a small number of North Korean artillery systems have the long reach to threaten Seoul from across the DMZ. Chief among them are North Korea’s five hundred enormous 170-millimeter Koksan self-propelled guns. The combat-tested system can fling shells at targets as far as thirty-seven miles away when using rocket-assisted projectiles.

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