Many of the small arms developed in North Korea show substantial Czechoslovakian influence, and the Type 73 machine gun is no exception. Based on the concept of the Czech 52/57 light machine gun, the Type 73 is able to use both magazines and belts (although not both simultaneously). fundamentally, it is a copy of the Soviet PK machine gun, but with a top cover modified to use 30-round unique box magazines. The magazine is designed to have a single-feed presentation, and to cycle rounds backwards like a Boberg or Mars pistol. This is necessary for the magazine to function with the claw-type pull-out extractor used in the PK design. The Type 73 has several other unique features, including a rifle grenade spigot and sights and a slip-on muzzle brake if rifle grenades are not necessary.
Adopted in 1973, the Type 73 was only used for about 10 years before being replaced by the Type 82, a more direct copy of the PKM that only used belts. They were extremely rare in Western hands for many years, until a small number began recently showing up in the Middle East and North Africa. These most likely trace back to sale of Type 73s (and other arms) to Iran during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, which are now being supplied to small pro-Iranian factions.
Many thanks to the French IRCGN (Criminal Research Institute of the National Gendarmerie) for generously giving me access to film this exceptionally rare specimen for you! They maintain an extensive firearms reference collection as part of their mission to fight crime and international terrorism.