North Korea operates 40,000 special forces troops, including the 11th or "Storm" Corps whose mission is to infiltrate South Korea and create havoc in case of war. It also has around 10,000 naval special forces and around 5,000 air force soldiers who can cross the border if a war breaks out.

The figures were revealed in a speech by former South Korean commander of special operations Kim Yun-suk to fellow veterans at the War Memorial in Seoul.

Kim said the Storm Corps, which has been trained to stir up confusion behind enemy lines, is composed of four light infantry, seven airborne and three sniper brigades. And the 4th Corps special forces, stationed on the Ongjin Peninsula close to South Korea's Baeknyeong Islands in the West Sea, consists of 600 scout troops, 600 naval reconnaissance soldiers and around 1,800 naval forces.

The North also operates a large amphibious landing force in the region similar to South Korea's Marines. Totaling 180,000 troops, North Korea has the largest number of special ops forces in the world. The 11th Corps accounts for 22 percent with 40,000 special forces troops, and 120,000 light infantry brigades make up 66 percent of the special forces. The reconnaissance brigade, which has been fingered in the sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan, accounts for around 6 percent of special forces, and the Navy and Air Force each have around 5,000 crack troops, which make up 3 percent.

"Ten thousand North Korean special forces are capable of infiltrating simultaneously through underground tunnels or aboard 260 hovercraft or submarines, while 175 AN-2 transport planes and 310 helicopters can transport another 10,000 troops," Kim said.

The former officer said the South needs to come up with measures to deal with the so-called asymmetric threat by creating a powerful special forces brigade, operating a special military branch that handles North Korea's irregular forces and boosting the number of anti-terrorism units and training.

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