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 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 US 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.)


Officer Ranks

The shoulder boards and sleeve stripes of the US and ROK ranks applies only to their navies. Neither Marine Corps of the two nations maintain a five star General rank. The North Korean military does not maintain a separate Marine Corps as part of their armed forces, although it does maintain two Amphibious Sniper Brigades as part of their Special Forces.

장교 (將校) Janggyo (Commissioned officer ranks)
NATO Rank Code North Korean rank North Korean insignia South Korean rank South Korean insignia US Army/Air Force/Marine Corps equivalent US Navy equivalent US insignia
장관 (將官) Janggwan (General officer ranks)
OF-10 대원수 Tae Wonsu (Grand Marshal)
KPA OF-10d.png
no equivalent
no official insignia
원수 Wonsu (Marshal of the DRPK/KPA/KPN/KPAF)
KPA OF-10c.png
원수 (元帥) Wonsu (Marshal of the ROK/Fleet Admiral of the ROK)¹ 원수.JPG General of the Army/Air Force Fleet Admiral US Navy O11 insignia.svg
차수 Ch'asu (Vice Marshal)
KPA OF-10b.png
no equivalent
no equivalent
OF-9 대장 Taejang (General/Fleet Admiral)
KPA OF-10a.png
대장 (大將) Daejang (General/Admiral) 대장 견장.JPG General Admiral US Navy O10 insignia.svg
OF-8 상장 Sangjang (Colonel General/Admiral)
KPA OF-9.png
중장 (中將) Jungjang (Lieutenant General/Vice Admiral) 중장 견장.JPG Lieutenant General Vice Admiral US Navy O9 insignia.svg
OF-7 중장 Chungjang (Lieutenant General/Vice Admiral)
KPA OF-8.png
소장 (小將) Sojang (Major General/Rear Admiral) 소장 견장.JPG Major General Rear Admiral (upper half) US Navy O8 insignia.svg
OF-6 소장 Sojang (Major General/Rear Admiral)
KPA OF-7.png
준장 (准將) Junjang (Brigadier General/Commodore Admiral) 준장 견장.JPG Brigadier General Rear Admiral (lower half) US Navy O7 insignia.svg
영관 (領官) Yeonggwan (Field-grade officer ranks)
OF-5 대좌 Taejwa (Brigadier/Commodore)
KPA OF-6b.png
대령 (大領) Daeryeong (Colonel/Captain) 대령 견장.JPG Colonel Captain US Navy O6 insignia.svg
상좌 Sangjwa (Colonel/Captain)
KPA OF-6a.png
OF-4 중좌 Chungjwa (Lieutenant Colonel/Commander)
KPA OF-5.png
중령 (中領) Jungnyeong (Lieutenant Colonel/Commander) 중령 견장.JPG Lieutenant Colonel Commander US Navy O5 insignia.svg
OF-3 소좌 Sojwa (Major/Lieutenant Commander)
KPA OF-4.png
소령 (小領) Soryeong (Major/Lieutenant Commander) 소령 견장.JPG Major Lieutenant Commander US Navy O4 insignia.svg
위관 (尉官) Wi-gwan (Company-grade officer ranks)
OF-2 대위 Taewi (Captain/Captain Lieutenant)
KPA OF-3b.png
대위 (大尉) Daewi (Captain/Lieutenant) 대위 견장.JPG Captain Lieutenant US Navy O3 insignia.svg
상위 Sangwi (Senior Lieutenant/Lieutenant Senior Grade)
KPA OF-3a.png
OF-1 중위 Chungwi (Lieutenant/Lieutenant Junior Grade)
KPA OF-2.png
중위 (中尉) Jungwi (First Lieutenant/Lieutenant Junior Grade) 중위 견장.JPG First Lieutenant Lieutenant (junior grade) US Navy O2 insignia.svg
소위 Sowi (Junior Lieutenant/Ensign)
KPA OF-1.png
소위 (小尉) Sowi (Second Lieutenant/Ensign) 소위 견장.JPG Second Lieutenant Ensign US Navy O1 insignia.svg

Warrant Officer Ranks

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 ROK Navy, a single broken sleeve stripe. A Junwi may be considered to be a close equivalent to a Chief Warrant Officer in the United States armed forces.

The North Korean military and the US Air Force do not maintain any equivalent Warrant Officer positions.

준사관 (准士官) Junsa-gwan (Warrant officer ranks)
NATO Rank Code South Korean rank South Korean insignia United States equivalent US Army insignia US Navy insignia US Marine Corps insignia
WO-3 준위 (准尉) Junwi 준위.JPG Chief Warrant Officer (Three)
USN CWO 3.png

Enlisted Ranks

Both Korean militaries share the same rank structure among all its branches. They also have enlisted ranks called "Corporal" and "Sergeant" in English, but are not considered non-commissioned officer ranks, though they are treated as one if they hold an NCO position.

사병 (士兵) Sa-byeong (Soldier ranks)
NATO Rank Code North Korean rank North Korean insignia South Korean rank South Korean insignia US Army equivalent US Army insignia US Air Force equivalent USAF insignia US Navy equivalent USN insignia (sleeve) USN insignia (collar) US Marine Corps equivalent USMC insignia
부사관 (副士官) Busa-gwan (Non-commissioned officer ranks)
OR-9 특무상사 T'ŭkmu-sangsa (Warrant Officer)
KPA OR-9.png
원사 (元士) Wonsa (Sergeant Major/Master Chief Petty Officer)
Sergeant Major US Army E-9 SGM.svg Chief Master Sergeant E9a USAF CMSGT.svg Master Chief Petty Officer MCPO GC.png MCPO collar.png Sergeant Major USMC-E9-SGM.svg
OR-8 상사 Sangsa (Sergeant First Class/Senior Chief Petty Officer)
KPA OR-8.png
상사 (上士) Sangsa (Master Sergeant/Senior Chief Petty Officer)
Master Sergeant US Army E-8 MSG.svg Senior Master Sergeant E8a USAF SMSGT.svg Senior Chief Petty Officer SCPO GC.png SCPO collar.png Master Sergeant USMC-E8-MSG.svg
OR-7 중사 Chungsa (Staff Sergeant/Chief Petty Officer)
KPA OR-7.png
중사 (中士) Jungsa (Sergeant First Class/Chief Petty Officer)
Sergeant First Class US Army E-7.svg Master Sergeant E7a USAF MSGT.svg Chief Petty Officer CPO GC.png CPO collar.png Gunnery Sergeant USMC-E7.svg
OR-6 하사 Hasa (Sergeant/Petty Officer 1st Class)
KPA OR-6.png
하사 (下士) Hasa (Staff Sergeant/Petty Officer 1st Class)
Staff Sergeant US Army E-6.svg Technical Sergeant E6 USAF TSGT.svg Petty Officer First Class PO1 NOGC.png Staff Sergeant USMC-E6.svg
OR-5 Sergeant US Army E-5.svg Staff Sergeant E5 USAF SSGT.svg Petty Officer Second Class PO2 NOGC.png Sergeant USMC-E5.svg
OR-4 Corporal US Army E-4.svg
no equivalent
Petty Officer Third Class PO3 NOGC.png PO3 collar.png Corporal USMC-E4.svg
(兵) Byeong (Enlisted ranks)
OR-5 상급병사 Sanggŭp-pyŏngsa (Lance Sergeant/Petty Officer 2nd Class)
KPA OR-4.png
병장 (兵長) Byeongjang (Sergeant/Petty Officer 2nd Class) ROK Army Byeongjang.png
no equivalent
no equivalent
no equivalent
no equivalent
OR-4 중급병사 Chungŭp-pyŏngsa (Corporal/Leading Seaman)
KPA OR-3.png
상병 (上兵) Sangbyeong (Corporal/Petty Officer 3rd Class) ROK Army Sangbyeong.png Specialist US Army E-4 SPC.svg Senior Airman E4 USAF SAM.svg
no equivalent
no equivalent
OR-3 하급병사 Hagŭp-pyŏngsa (Lance Corporal/Able Seaman)
KPA OR-2.png
일병 (一兵) Ilbyeong (Private First Class/Seaman) ROK Army Ilbyeong.png Private First Class US Army E-3.svg Airman First Class E3 USAF AM1.svg Seaman E3 SM USN.png USN - Seaman.png Lance Corporal USMC-E3.svg
OR-2 전사 Chŏnsa (Private/Seaman)
KPA OR-1.png
이병 (二兵) Ibyeong (Private/Seaman Apprentice) ROK Army Ibyeong.png Private E-2 US Army E-2.svg Airman E2 USAF AM.svg Seaman Apprentice E2 SM USN.png USN - Seaman Apprentice.png Private First Class USMC-E2.svg
OR-1 장정 (青男) Jangjeong² (Recruit)
no insignia
Private E-1
no insignia
Airman Basic
no insignia
Seaman Recruit
no insignia
no insignia

See also

  • Comparative military ranks


¹: No one has yet held the five-star rank of Won-su in the history of the ROK Armed Forces.
²: 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 (培訓兵) Hullyeonbyeong (trainee).

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