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Sŭngni Automobile Factory

  • Location
    Tŏkch'ŏn (덕천군), South P'yŏng'an Province (평안남도)
  • Type

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The Sŭngni Automobile Factory has produced the majority of North Korea’s vehicles since the plant was opened in 1958 with Soviet and Czech assistance. The factory was called the “Tŏkch’ŏn Automobile Factory (德川自動車工場)” until 1975, when it was renamed the “Sŭngni Automobile Factory.” At the end of 1999, when a structural reform of factories and enterprises was implemented, the designation of the factory became the Sŭngni Automobile Factory. The factory started producing its first vehicle, the Sŭngni-58 truck, with a hauling capacity of 2.5 tons, in 1958. Larger trucks were later produced for the military, and by the 1980s, annual plant capacity had increased to 20,000 vehicles. However, production declined to around 6,000 to 7,000 vehicles per year by the mid-1990s during North Korea’s economic contraction.

The Sŭngni Automobile Factory also produces vehicles for transporting and launching missiles. According to Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr., this plant produces ballistic missile TELs (transporter-erector launchers), MELs (mobile-erector launchers) and support vehicles based on its trucks called the “Chajuho,” “Kŏnsŏlho” and “Kŭmsusanho,” which have carrying capacities of 10 tons, 25 tons, and 40 tons, respectively. In December 1998, National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong Il visited the factory to provide “on-the-spot guidance.” South Korean Ministry of Unification officials see Kim’s visit as part of Pyongyang’s policy of emphasizing the munitions sector in accordance with its “military first policy (先軍政治)” and objective of building a “strong and powerful country (强盛大國).”


Ballistic missile
A delivery vehicle powered by a liquid or solid fueled rocket that primarily travels in a ballistic (free-fall) trajectory.  The flight of a ballistic missile includes three phases: 1) boost phase, where the rocket generates thrust to launch the missile into flight; 2) midcourse phase, where the missile coasts in an arc under the influence of gravity; and 3) terminal phase, in which the missile descends towards its target.  Ballistic missiles can be characterized by three key parameters - range, payload, and Circular Error Probable (CEP), or targeting precision.  Ballistic missiles are primarily intended for use against ground targets.


[1] Kim Mi-young, “The Struggling North Korean Automobile Industry,” Chosun Ilbo, 5 February 2002, http://english.chosun.com.
[2] Kim Mi Yŏng, “Pukhan’ŭi Chadongch’a San’ŏp/Ch’asaengsan 50 Nyŏn, Kisur’ŭn ‘Kŏr’ŭmma, Tan’gye,” Chosun Ilbo, 6 February 2002, p. 53, in KINDS, www.kinds.or.kr.
[3] Kim Yŏng Shik, “[Pukhan] Kim Jŏng Il Hyŏnji Chido,” Segye Ilbo, 31 December 1998, p. 21, in KINDS, www.kinds.or.kr.
[4] Cho Min Ho, “Puk, Yŏnhapkiŏpso-Kongjang Taedaejŏk Chojikkaep’yŏn Tanhaeng,” Segye Ilbo, 25 January 2000, p. 16, in KINDS, www.kinds.or.kr.
[5] Lee Jae Sŭng, “Chadongch’a San’ŏp (Pukhan’ŭi San’ŏp),” Segye Ilbo, 4 March 1992, p. 12, in KINDS, www.kinds.or.kr.
[6] Sŏn Jong Ku, “’Sŭngnijadongch’a’, Puk Saengsan 80% Ch’aji,” Segye Ilbo, 11 January 2000, p. 16, in KINDS, www.kinds.or.kr;
[7] Pukhan, November 1997, pp. 121-133, in “Defector Describes North Korean Transport System,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 7 January 1998, in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, http://web.lexis-nexis.com.
[8] “North Korea Special Weapons Guide,” Federation of American Scientists, www.fas.org.
[9] Joseph S. Burmudez, Jr., The Armed Forces of North Korea, (New York: I.B. Tauris, 2001), p. 285; Ye Jin Su, “<Interview> Kwisunjŏngbisa Taewoo Cha Pae In Su Ssi,” Munhwa Ilbo, 23 August 1999, p. 15, in KINDS, www.kinds.or.kr.
[10] Kang T’ae Ho, “58 Nyŏn Hwamulch’a Ch’ŏt Choripsaengsan/Chadongch’asan’ŏp (Pukhan’gyŏgje),” Hankyoreh Shinmun, 16 November 1993, p. 8, in KINDS, www.kinds.or.kr.
[11] “Chŏkchaeham Kaejo Mu’gye Chur’in Sae Hwamulch’a ‘Chajuho’ Chejak,” Hankook Ilbo, 26 February 1996, p. 13, in KINDS, www.kinds.or.kr.


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