The Blue House Raid Part II: “Specially selected and handpicked”
By MSG (Ret.) Mad Max Mullen
Due to the popularity of the “The Blue House Raid: North Korean Commandos Are Hardcore PT Studs,” I have received numerous requests for more information on the raid, and a follow-up on the story. Many readers have never heard of “The Blue House Raid” and were intrigued by the men and the training they under took along with audacity and the boldness of such a mission.
I asked a Korean friend to contact the only survivor of the Blue House Raid, the 67-year-old Reverend Kim Shin-jo who is now the Pastor of Hillside church in the Mount Ungil, Namyangju City, east of Seoul. After his capture, he was interrogated for a year by the South Korean intelligence agency and army before being released. I wanted to conduct an interview on the training he received, the state of mind of the commandos, and the preparation leading up to the mission. I informed him that I only wanted to cover the raid and not dwell on any ideology or politics. After contacting him, he politely said he did not want to talk about his experience.
My original intent was to do a story of the importance of physical fitness of an elite Special Operations Unit, but, it has slowly started to evolve into a story of a raid that two took years of planning from the beginning to execution. This has lead me to the decision to do a series on the mission from its start to finish, recreating the mission from the beginning to its conclusion 300 meters short of the objective (OBJ).
It is difficult to find information on the raid itself. I have tried to find AAR reports, Command and Staff briefings, as well as declassified documents on the raid. It has been frustrating at times. I am recreating this story from various sources that I was able to find and pull together from military manuals, Google searches, and many hours in the public library. So this is part fictional, based on actual events that took place.
I will be sharing maps, pictures, and rare graphs. I encourage and welcome any information you would like to share on this extraordinary raid. Please feel free to join in on the discussion and leave your comments. However, if some facts are not correct, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I want to reiterate that I do not endorse or glorify the events that lead to the death of the law enforcement, innocent civilians, and soldiers of the United States Army during this raid.
The intent is from a historical point only into the training and mind set of the soldiers that were members on this raid. With that being said, I hope you enjoy this installment of the Blue House raid.
Now, let us travel back to 1966. The location is a top secret North Korean military base in the Hwanghae province, home to the infamous North Korean People’s Army (NPK) Unit 124. There, 31 young commandos received a briefing on what was to be one of the most dangerous and improbable missions ever conceived.
Like any Special Forces unit, the commandos from Unit 124 were the best of the best, in modern-day terminology, an elite “tier one” outfit. They were brash, hardcore, and highly motivated young men in their mid-20s. They were made up of south Koreans who migrated north during the war with their families. Some of the 31 commandos spoke with a southern dialect, which would enable the elite troops to blend in with the local population and not raise suspicion. Bar none these men were in the best physical condition of any elite soldier at that time. In other words, they trained on the level of a world-class athlete.
As I mentioned in the last post, the Korean commandos’ training took place over a two-year period in adverse weather conditions—rain, sleet, snow, and sub-zero winds at high elevations. The training never stopped as they prepared for a mission they must have know that they would not return from alive. Putting it in plain and simple terms—they were on a mission with a one-way ticket to hell in a hand basket.
Heavily indoctrinated in the ideology of chuch’e, these 31 unique commandos of Special Unit 124 were trained, rough, and ready. They feared little, including death. As an opposing force, you’d better come with your “A-game” and be ready to throw down when you come up against these troops. They were willing to risk it all in combat, are you?
As these men sat in the conference room wondering why they were assembled, the commander entered, along with his staff, to issue the unit their marching orders. He probably said something like this to the commandos, “Under the orders of our great imperial leader Kim Il Sung, you have been specially selected and handpicked to go on a top secret mission to the south. You are to kill the imperial President of South Korea, Park Chung-hee. Your successes of this important mission will help our brother to the south rise up from under the yoke of his ‘puppet regime.’ This will cause an uprising of the people, which will hasten the reunification of our glorious country. Our great leader will then lead our forces south to push the American Yankee warmongering pigs from our country. We will then, once again, be united as one. Our glorious leader has given explicit orders to cut off the head of Park Chung-hee and roll it into the streets to bear testimony for all to see. Soon our glorious army will march south and be welcomed with open arms as the liberators of the people.”
“Your training will start immediately—and upon conclusion of it, you will infiltrate south through the American sector, staying along the high ground. You will then infiltrate into the city of Seoul and conduct the raid on the ‘Blue House.’ I must be honest with you. The training will be long and arduous but there are rewards. In the end, your names will go down in history as true patriotic heroes—your families will be proud of the sacrifices in the reunification of our homeland. Over the course of the training, you will be receiving intelligence updates from our sleeper agent and comrades imbedded in the city of Seoul. The last few months of your training will be conducted on a specially built, full-scale mockup of the ‘Blue House.’ No detail has been spared in its construction.”
The political climate in 1966 was tense in South Korea as numerous incursions were taking place along the border of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), one of the most heavily fortified places in the world. In order to understand the reasons for the conducting of the raid on this level, we must look at the political climate in the years leading up to 1966. The armistice was signed on July 27, 1953 at Panmunjom halting the Korean War. Korea is still considered a war zone to this day. An official declaration of peace has never been stated.
On May 16, 1961, General Park Chung-hee rose to power in a military coup against President Yun Bo-seon. Chung-hee instituted normalization of diplomatic ties with Japan after the country’s 36 years of brutal rule during WWII. This was unpopular with South Koreans as the Japanese had pillaged the country of its natural resources, intimidated the citizens to speak only Japanese, and forced the Korean women (considered “comfort women”) into prostitution. The amendment of the South Korean constitution extended the term for presidency. Chung-hee’s dictator rule, coupled with a slowdown of economic growth and student demonstrations, added to fuel to the inevitable revolutionary fire. Park Chung-hee had taken his position by force, and it was time for someone to take him out with equal and swift force. Kim IL Sung thought that it was necessary to assassinate President Park Chung-he in order to reunify the country.
As the men of Special Unit 124 filed out the briefing room, each man was probably excited about the difficult mission to follow. The two years of training that lie in wait ahead of them was going to be long, hard, and brutal, and the mission had a low survivability rate. Even if the commandos were successful in killing President Park Chung-Hee, it was doubtful that they would escape South Korea alive after their presence was alerted. But like any Special Operations soldier would say, the only thing that matters is the successful accomplishment of the mission—failure is never an option.
Next: Part III: Let the training begin…