North Korea has sent about 6,700 containers carrying millions of munitions to Russia since September in exchange for food as well as parts and raw materials for weapons manufacturing, according to officials.

South Korean Defense Minister Shin Wonsik told reporters on Tuesday that the containers might carry more than three million 152mm artillery shells or 500,000 122mm rounds.


North Korea provided 3 million artillery shells to Russia. My question is whether the intelligence community has been able to find out what North Korea's yearly production capacity is for artillery shells now that Russia has become extremely reliant on North Korea to produce enough shells for its war in Ukraine.


1 Answer 1


A South Korean news article from November 2023 quotes an unnamed expert's estimation that "the North can produce around 2 million 152-millimeter shells per year." I've seen no alternative estimate that contradicts or revises this figure.

Another news source from February 2024 provides no specific figure for North Korean output but quotes the South Korean Defense Minister, Shin Won-sik:

While North Korea's arms factories operate at 30 percent capacity due to shortages of raw materials and power, certain factories are operating at full capacity, which primarily produce weapons and shells for Russia

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    Just for context, here is an article that claims, the US has a target to produce 1.2 million artillery shells per year in 2025 (nytimes.com/2024/05/29/us/…). So if this 2 million number is anywhere close to true, it would be a massive amount and sounds like more than all of NATO combined. From the article: "The 100,000-per-month goal represents a nearly tenfold increase in production from a few years ago. "
    – quarague
    Commented Jun 19 at 6:55
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    @quarague The technology for producing shells is not that revolutionary. The reason the whole NATO combined can't produce as many shells a year is because they don't need that many, can't use them all and can't store them safely in those huge quantities. North Korea is known to have hundreds and hundreds of cannons aiming to South Korea, so having millions of shells ready to use, and industrial capacity to build thousands and thousands of them per month doesn't seem that unreasonable.
    – Rekesoft
    Commented Jun 19 at 11:02
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    The article also says, "The expert also said that the North’s annual production estimate of 2 million 152-millimeter artillery shells is premised on peacetime manufacturing rates. 'If the North Korean regime mobilizes all of its weapons production capabilities, it could theoretically produce two to three times more,' he said." So the actual production capacity is apparently 4-6 million. Big if true. I find it a bit hard to believe that NK produces 2 million shells in peacetime, but I'm not an expert. Do they use them to celebrate New Year's? Or do they have 10s of millions in storage? Commented Jun 19 at 13:18
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    @AleksandrDubinsky Our sources of information about North Korea are either defectors, or the South Korean intelligence, and both of them intentionally distort reality to picture North Korea in the worst light possible. The thing about having humongous amounts of artillery pointing to Saigon has been confirmed by satellite surveillance by the US, but you have to take everything you heard about NK with more than a pinch of salt. As I said before, it's not that surprising if NK can churn out massive amount of shells - but I'd bet the number being closer to 500,000 per year rather than 2m.
    – Rekesoft
    Commented Jun 19 at 16:32

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