Could North Korea Be Developing An EMP Weapon?

Is it possible that new developments in North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs could be putting them closer to having the ability to launch an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) attack on the United States?

As most of you probably already know an EMP is a burst of electromagnetic radiation that can cause widespread damage to power lines, telecommunications, and electronics across vast distances. They are usually caused by the detonation of a nuclear weapon in the atmosphere and can affect entire continents.  It is perhaps the ultimate doomsday scenario as experts predict that if the US were hit with an EMP strike well over half the population would perish in the first year alone.  Read how and why this is possible in our post, “The Dangers of Electromagnetic Pulse” here.

(Map courtesy of

In December of 2012 North Korea finally managed to launch a rocket that put a satellite into space, bringing them perhaps one step closer to building a missile that could reach the U.S.  While this was a first for this angry little nation it is by no means a certainty that they will be able to develop an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) that could carry out a strike against us.  The guidance systems on ICBMs are extremely complicated and involve launching a missile into space and having it re-enter the atmosphere on the other side of the planet.  Something not easily accomplished.  But still North Korea does seem one step closer to its goal of having a weapon that could hit the U.S.

On February 12th, just a couple of months after the space launch, North Korea performed its third nuclear test.  The size of the blast was difficult to measure as the test was performed underground, but it did manage to trigger a 4.9 magnitude earthquake.   This indicates that the bomb may have been in the five kiloton range, much smaller than the Hiroshima bomb but almost the right yield to produce a pulse.  During the cold war EMP strikes were planned with weapons yielding between 1 to 10 megatons (much much larger than the bomb tested by the North Koreans).   However physicists have testified in front of congress that bombs yielding 10 kilotons or less can still produce a very strong EMP.[1]

The North claims that they have also finally managed to miniaturize the weapon they tested.  In the past North Korean nukes were thought to be extremely large.  Much too large to weaponize and certainly too big to fit inside a missile.  If they have truly managed to miniaturize their bombs this would be a major step forward for their nuclear program.

So while these two developments do not put North Korea in a position to hit the U.S. with an EMP strike today or even next month how long will it be before they do have that capability?  One year or five?  And once they get it how long will they wait to use it?

These are serious questions and many Preppers are probably asking themselves what they can do to prepare.  EMP is so thoroughly devastating and extremely difficult to recover from that there is little most people can do.  Once all devices that require a computer circuit to function stop working our world as we know it grinds to a halt.  The lights go out for good, food distribution becomes almost impossible as almost all cars and trucks stop functioning and things spiral downhill from there.

Perhaps the only thing that can be done is to set up completely off-grid in a very very remote location.  I’m not even talking about farm country here, I mean really Off-Grid like an island somewhere or in a serious bunker.  This is something I’m simply not prepared to do as it would require sacrificing too much quality of life preparing for a threat that- while real- is still somewhat unlikely.  That’s not the Prudent Reasonable Preparedness we preach here at Prep-Blog.

Why do I think a North Korean strike is unlikely even though evidence points to them pursuing this type of weapon?  For starters it’s because even if the civilian population of the continental US was crippled by a first strike our military has enough EMP shielded weapons to wipe out their entire nation instantly.  Add to that the fact that just one nuclear submarine has more than enough nukes on board to carry out this task, and we have plenty of them on guard for just that purpose.  This is the type of Mutually Assured Destruction that kept the peace during the cold war of the ’70s and ’80s and I think the threat of reprisal would keep the North Koreans at bay.

On the other hand Kim Jong-un, the current leader of North Korea, does have that “Helter Skelter” look about him that just has to make you wonder…

~ Butch

[1] U.S. Congressional hearing Transcript H.A.S.C.No. 106–31, p. 48

3 Responses to Could North Korea Be Developing An EMP Weapon?

  1. Minor technical, but hugely important correction to the article. The article reads “…This indicates that the bomb may have been in the five megaton range, slightly smaller than the Hiroshima bomb but just about the right yield to produce a pulse” The Hiroshima bomb, Little Boy, had a yield of less than 20kt. (Wikipedi reports 16kt). Megaton yields were not seen in US weapons tests until the 1950′s and are an order of magnitude larger (millions as opposed to thousands). Fission designs like ones likely being tested by DPRK are in the kt range and likely very heavy, too heavy in fact for their current rocket technology. Not much to worry about from them, regarding EMP weapons, at least not in the near term. The bigger problem is the cash strapped and internationally isolated DPRk selling a KT weapon to a rogue state or transnational terrorist group, much bigger problem there.

  2. Thanks for catching that judicatr. The corrections have been made including footnote to source.
    ~ Butch

  3. Recent tests indicate that most cars, even newer ones, would survive an EMP event with little or no damage, especially if turned of during the event. They would be largely crippled by lack of fuel until fuel could be pumped by hand, as the electrical distribution grid would probably not fare so well. You can bet that any available fuel would be seized ASAP by the government fuel Nazi. NO FUEL FOR YOU!!! (from Sienfeld)