What A Korean War Could Look Like

The DEFCON Warning System
by Thomas Lonely Wolf



Korea has been on the tipping point of a major conflict since the armistice of 1953. (The two sides are technically still at war.) While there have been many steps toward that line, recently it seems that the Koreas have been only moments away from attacking each other several times. It even came to the point where the United States was sending nuclear bombers over to Korea in a show of force.

It’s been close. With North Korea continuing its programme of nuclear weapons research, continual threats against the South and the United States itself, and with South Korea provoking North Korea and the United States holding drills to invade and attack the North’s leadership, can war be avoided?

The DEFCON Warning System believes that war in Korea is an eventuality unless there is momentous change to the path the countries are on.

There has been much speculation as to what a modern war in Korea would look like. Most of what is heard in the media is usually extremism.

What follows is our analysis of what could happen if war in Korea were to start today:

Prologue 1: North Korea, fearing an invasion or pre-emptive strike by the United States, elects to strike first.

Prologue 2: The United States, along with South Korea, fearing a surprise nuclear attack by the North, decide to attack first.

It does not matter which event occurs. After the first few minutes, either one will devolve into what follows:

North Korea will fire hundreds or thousands of salvos into South Korea. Seoul will come under heavy attack. The amount of firepower will surprise the U.S. as many missile sites will not have been discovered.

Military sites in South Korea will also be heavily damaged. Those close to the DMZ could be destroyed or rendered unusable within the first hour.
North Korean heavy armour will pour across the DMZ, though will suffer significant casualties from Western air power.

South Korean and U.S. forces will be unable to withstand the sheer number of North Korean forces, however North Korea will suffer blinding casualties. North Korea will be unable to hold any ground they capture.

The United States will begin pouring forces into South Korea as well as making incursions into North Korea. They will not, however, move close to the border with China for fear of bringing China into the conflict. This strategy will fail and China will assist North Korea. The United States must make a choice as to whether to block China from sending reinforcements and supplies to North Korea or to allow the northern border to remain open.

There will be significant protests in the United States against the conflict. At the beginning, this will not affect how the U.S. prosecutes the war. If the conflict drags on even more than a few days, these protests will grow and Congress will begin to interfere with U.S. military actions in Korea.

North Korea will use its nuclear arsenal. Seoul will be destroyed and U.S. military forces will suffer significant casualties. The United States will respond with a massive campaign to destroy the North Korean regime and its remaining nuclear weapons. China may back away at this time once nuclear weapons are used. The United States may not respond with its own nuclear arsenal, depending on what China does or what diplomacy between China and the United States has taken place. Pyongyang, however, will be bombed mercilessly.

North Korea must decide whether to attack the United States directly. Alternatively, it could also threaten Japan. While North Korean technology is not advanced enough to strike the U.S. with precision, it is capable of hitting the United States. Alternatively, a nuclear weapon can be delivered to a number of ports along the west coast. Any nuclear detonation in the United States will send shock waves through the country. The United States, politically fractured already, will see a portion of the country turn against the government and blame the United States for the attack and the resulting casualties.

If the United States has not responded to the initial nuclear attack, it certainly will to any subsequent one.

A nuclear attack on North Korea will involve between one and three weapons. Pyongyang will be vaporized. Additionally, any significant North Korean military target will be hit, though it is likely that none will exist at that time. Command and Control targets will probably be the targets. Tactical field weapons may also be used against North Korean troops. The United States will not be concerned if Chinese troops are in the mix.

North Korea will fire off any remaining nuclear weapons. The U.S. may respond with another salvo. It may not.

The exchange will stop. The war will end in a couple more days.

Radiation from Korea will travel east over the Pacific Ocean fallout will being landing on the west coast and Hawaii after about two-three days, depending on the wind. While the United States will have used mostly air bursts, North Korea could use more ground bursts, yielding more radioactive fallout.

China will move into North Korea and take over the area. South Korea will remain a separate country.

In the United States, there will be political chaos.

South Korea will be devastated, but will likely survive.

Japan will change its constitution and allow its military to engage in overseas conflicts.

Discounting the radiation damage, North Korea will find life no better under Chinese control as they were under the Kim dynasty.


This was a very brief look at what a war in Korea could look like. There are many factors that can influence these events. This scenario was based on what we know of North Korean abilities as well as their philosophy, as well as the current political climates in South Korea and the United States.

It is our belief that a war in Korea is coming. If not soon, then soon enough.

The DEFCON Warning System is a private intelligence organization which has monitored and assessed nuclear threats against the United States by national entities for over 33 years. It is not affiliated with any government agency and does not represent the alert status of any military branch. The public should make their own evaluations and not rely on the DEFCON Warning System for any strategic planning. At all times, citizens are urged to learn what steps to take in the event of a nuclear attack.

The DEFCON Warning System