Although North Korea could technically open fire on South Korea with all of its artillery systems at once, this would open Pyongyang up to significant counter-battery fire and airstrikes that could rapidly reduce the artillery force it has so painstakingly built up. Instead, as other studies have shown, only a portion of North Korean artillery would be used at a time. This is particularly true for the advanced systems that are most important to Pyongyang: long-range artillery that is able to strike at Seoul. The heavier, more advanced systems are not only difficult to replace, but they are also priority targets for counter-battery fire and airstrikes. Even when firing, artillery systems would be able to do so only temporarily before relocating or otherwise trying to hide the system’s firing location to avoid destruction.
Aside from constraints on range and volume of fire, North Korea has to decide what targets to hit in South Korea. There are two realistic options: a counterforce attack or a countervalue attack. In a counterforce attack, North Korea would target South Korean and possibly even U.S. military facilities near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and north of Seoul. A countervalue attack, on the other hand, is intended to shock South Korea by causing significant civilian casualties and damage to economically critical infrastructure. If North Korea opted for a countervalue attack, the lack of focus on South Korean and U.S. military targets would reduce Pyongyang’s ability to limit any response. (Typically, the easiest way to counteract enemy artillery is to destroy it in place.) Engaging civilian targets and infrastructure would not only limit the effectiveness and sustainability of the North Korean artillery volley itself, but it would also open up Pyongyang to more significant counteraction targeting. A mix of both counterforce and countervalue responses may mitigate this risk but would in turn lower the overall effectiveness of the mission compared to full commitment.