How Many People Would Die in a War With North Korea?

The human cost of a conventional war between the United States and North Korea would be astronomical.

From soldiers deployed in the Korean Peninsula and Japan to troops and civilians in Pacific islands like Guam and Hawaii, many Americans would be under direct threat. There’s also growing concern that North Korea has developed an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can strike the U.S. mainland, despite evidence it’s still figuring out the technology to launch an ICBM that would actually reach its target successfully. 

In all, millions of people could die across the globe. In 1994, the commander of U.S. forces in Korea told President Bill Clinton a war with North Korea would likely lead to one million deaths and roughly $1 trillion of economic damage. North Korea possesses far more advanced military technology these days, so the destruction and loss of life could be exponentially worse. 

To be sure, it’s hard to predict exactly how many would die, especially since the U.S. doesn’t have a full picture of North Korea’s military capabilities. This is precisely why Democrats in Congress are pushing Defense Secretary James Mattis to release a detailed report on how many casualties would be expected in a war with North Korea. 

“Before this administration leads America down the dark, bloody and uncertain path of war with North Korea, the American people and their representatives in Congress deserve answers,” Representatives Ted Lieu and Ruben Gallego wrote in a letter sent to Mattis on Tuesday.

The lawmakers, who are both veterans, oppose a military option with North Korea. Lieu and Gallego called on Mattis to respond within 30 days. Newsweek reached out to the Department of Defense to see if Mattis plans to address this but did not hear back by the time of publication. 


North Korea has made a lot of progress in 2017 in terms of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching mainland U.S.

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