Precision strike has taken on a critical role in South Korean military doctrine in recent years. Two central Republic of Korea (ROK) strategies – “Kill Chain” and “Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation” (KMPR) – rely heavily on precision-guided munitions and surveillance to detect, preempt, and/or retaliate against a North Korean attack. These strategies work in tandem with the emerging Korea Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) architecture, which seeks to protect military assets and minimize South Korean casualties.

Kill Chain is South Korea’s detection and preemptive strike doctrine. ROK intelligence and surveillance assets constantly monitor the military and political environment in North Korea. Should a DPRK attack become apparent, Kill Chain calls for the employment of strike assets to destroy North Korea’s nuclear, missile, and long-range artillery facilities. To contain further escalation, Kill Chain does not seek to induce regime change in the North.

KMPR is a retaliatory variant of Kill Chain, likely to be executed after a North Korean nuclear attack or significant conventional strike. In addition to targeting North Korea’s nuclear, missile, and long-range artillery facilities, KMPR includes the additional mission of decapitating North Korean political and military leadership to prompt regime change.

While a ground war with the North would likely follow, it is largely recognized that the opening hours of conflict in the Peninsula would be of immense importance, and it is during this time that ROK missiles and missile defenses would be most active.

Outside of the ROK-DPRK paradigm, South Korea’s missile program may also provide an anti-access area denial (A2/AD) framework against possible Chinese aggression. Although South Korean officials have been optimistic about its relationship with a rising China, this could change. Provocative Chinese action in the South and East China Seas, economic sanctions against ROK companies in response to THAAD deployments, China’s political and economic support for North Korea, or other triggers may negatively impact South Korea’s relationship with China. ROK’s sophisticated missile forces, as such, may prove an important hedge against future threats.

Missile Types

Missile Menu Order
Hyunmoo 3D/4 3
Hyunmoo 3C 4
Hyunmoo 3B 5
NHK-2 10
NHK-1 11
Hyunmoo 3A 6
Hyunmoo-2C 7
Hyunmoo-2A 9
Hyunmoo-2B 8
Haeseong III 0
Haeseong II 1
Haeseong I 2

A Note on ‘Hyunmoo’ Naming Conventions

The NHK missile family includes: NHK-1, NHK-2, NHK-2A, NHK-2B, and NHK-2C. The missiles are more commonly known as ‘Hyunmoo,’ although analysts differ in their Hyunmoo missile designations: some start the ‘Hyunmoo-1’ designation with the NHK-1, whereas others do so with the NHK-2. In order to minimize confusion, Missile Threat designates the first two variants according to their NHK names, and starts using the Hyunmoo designation for the NHK-2A.

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