The Cost of War with North Korea

With war with North Korea becoming more and more likely, I wanted to provide some estimates of how deadly the conflict will be. Often times, American nationalism blinds Americans into thinking war on the peninsula would be a piece of cake.

Below are multiple different cities North Korea could choose to strike with nuclear weapons. Two different estimates will be provided based on two different sized nukes; one for the 2013 nuke test, 10 kilotons, and the 2017 test, 70 kilotons. For these estimates, I will be using Nukemap— a website created by Stevens Institute of Technology professor Alex Wellerstein.


Another city that has to be dealt with is Pyongyang, North Korea, a possible American nuclear target in the case of war. The smallest nuclear weapon in the American arsenal– the B-61 MOD 3 — is three-hundred tons– far smaller than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. If the US used this on Pyongyang, an estimated fifteen-thousand would die and another twenty-thousand would be injured.  The W-80 is a 150 kt nuclear cruise missile commonly used in the American arsenal. Its use would lead to over half a million deaths and over a million injuries. The W-87 Minuteman 2 ICBM would be another option. At 30 kt, it would cause over 820,000 deaths and a similar amount of injuries.  

Here are some other possible routes of massive deaths:

  • 12,000 pieces of tube artillery and 2,300 pieces of multiple launch rocket artillery, most of which is pointing towards the South Korean capital and other populated areas near the DMZ.
  • Between 2,500 and 5,000 metric tons of chemical weapons plus a significant amount of biological weapons.
  • An unknown amount of drones which are too slow, small and, low-flying to be detected by South Korean air defenses and are capable of carrying weapons into South Korea.
  • Special Forces soldiers which could penetrate into South Korea with conventional, biological or chemical weapons.

So let me be clear, no matter the option, a massive amount of innocent civilians will die and a humanitarian catastrophe of possibly unparalleled proportions will happen.

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