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North Korea Unveils ‘Hero Kim Kun Ok’: A New Chapter in its Naval Ambitions

In a significant development, North Korea has launched its first operational “tactical nuclear attack submarine,” a pivotal step in Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un‘s vision to bolster a nuclear-armed naval presence as a countermeasure against the United States and its Asian allies.

Named “Hero Kim Kun Ok” after a renowned North Korean historical figure, Submarine No 841 was unveiled on a momentous day, with Kim himself overseeing the event, as reported by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

According to KCNA, this submarine is purpose-built to execute the launch of tactical nuclear weapons from beneath the ocean’s surface, marking the initiation of a new era for North Korea’s naval capabilities. However, precise details regarding the vessel’s missile capacity remain undisclosed.

The launch ceremony was a grand spectacle, with hundreds of people congregating on the quay. Women adorned in traditional Korean hanbok waved flowers and flags in an enthusiastic welcome for Kim. Sailors joined in harmony, clapping in unison as the Supreme Leader walked past, accompanied by senior officers.

The Hero Kim Kun Ok, designated for deployment in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, will serve as a crucial component of North Korea’s naval offensive capability. Kim Jong Un articulated the country’s intention to convert existing submarines into nuclear-armed attack vessels and accelerate the development of nuclear-powered submarines.

Kim emphasized the urgency of advancing the nuclear capabilities of the navy, alluding to perceived aggressive actions by the United States and South Korea. He stated, “Achieving a rapid development of our naval forces… is a priority that cannot be delayed given… the enemies’ recent aggressive moves and military acts.”

This announcement comes in the backdrop of North Korea’s series of weapons tests, including submarine-launched ballistic missiles, reflecting Kim’s commitment to modernizing the nation’s military. Notably, these tests are in violation of long-standing United Nations sanctions prohibiting ballistic missile trials.

Analysts had first observed indications of new submarine construction in 2016. In 2019, state media showcased Kim inspecting an undisclosed vessel, highlighting its special significance and impending deployment in waters off the east coast. While North Korea possesses a sizable submarine fleet, the 8.24 Yongung (August 24 Hero) is the only one known to have launched a missile, serving as an experimental ballistic missile submarine.

The world watches closely as North Korea welcomes a high-level Chinese delegation ahead of the 75th anniversary of its founding day, likely to be marked by a grand parade. Furthermore, the anticipation mounts as Kim Jong Un prepares for a visit to Russia this month, aiming to discuss potential North Korean weapon exports to Moscow, including advanced weapon technologies, according to US intelligence reports.

As the geopolitical landscape evolves, the unveiling of the Hero Kim Kun Ok stands as a significant chapter in North Korea’s quest for naval supremacy, carrying implications that could reverberate across the region.

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