Blue House Raid
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|Blue House Raid|
|Part of Korean Conflict, Cold War|
The Blue House, the official residence of the President of South Korea, pictured above on August 5, 2010.
| South Korea
|Commanders and leaders|
| Park Chung-hee
Charles H. Bonesteel III
|ROK 25th Infantry Division
U.S. 2nd Infantry Division
|KPA Unit 124|
|Casualties and losses|
29 killed (1 by suicide)
Thirty-one men were handpicked from the elite all-officer Unit 124 of the Korean People's Army (KPA). This special operation commando unit trained for two years and spent their final 15 days rehearsing action on the objective in a full-scale mockup of the Blue House.
These specially selected men were trained in infiltration and exfiltration techniques, weaponry, navigation, airborne operations, amphibious infiltration, hand-to-hand combat (with emphasis on knife fighting), and concealment (one of their concealment techniques was to dig into graves and sleep with any interred remains).
As Kim Shin-Jo, the only known surviving commando, stated, “It made us fearless—no one would think to look for us in a graveyard”. Their training was difficult and often in adverse conditions, such as running at a speed of eight miles an hour with sixty-six pound rucksacks over broken and unforgiving terrain, which sometimes resulted in injuries such as lost toes and feet from frostbite.
On January 16, 1968, Unit 124 left their garrison at Yonsan. On January 17, 1968, at 11 p.m., they infiltrated the DMZ by cutting through the fencing of the U.S. Army's 2nd Infantry Division's sector. By 2 a.m. the next day they had set up camp at Morae-dong and Seokpo-ri. On January 19, at 5 a.m., after having crossed the Imjin River, they set up camp on Simbong Mountain.
At 2 p.m., four brothers named Woo from Beopwon-ri were out cutting firewood and stumbled across the unit's camp. After a fierce debate over whether or not to kill the brothers, it was decided instead to try to indoctrinate them on the alleged benefits of communism and they were released with a stern warning not to notify the police. However, the brothers immediately reported the presence of the unit to the Changhyeon police station in Beopwon-ri.
The unit broke camp and increased their pace to more than ten kilometers per hour, despite carrying 30 kilograms of equipment each, crossing Nogo Mountain and arriving at Bibong Mountain on January 20 at 7 a.m. Three battalions from the South Korean 25th Infantry Division began searching Nogo Mountain for the infiltrators, but they had already left the area. The unit entered Seoul in two- and three-man cells on the night of January 20 and regrouped at the Seungga-sa Temple, where they made their final preparations for the attack.
Meanwhile, the ROK (Republic of Korea) High Command added the 30th Infantry Division and Airborne Corps to the search and police began searching along Hongje-dong, Jeongreung, and Bukak Mountain. Given the increased security measures that had been implemented throughout the city and realizing their original plan had little chance of success, the team leader improvised a new plan.
Changing into Republic of Korea Army (ROKA) uniforms of the local 26th Infantry Division, complete with the correct unit insignia (which they had brought with them), they formed up and prepared to march the last mile to the Blue House, posing as ROKA soldiers returning from a counter-infiltration patrol. The unit marched along Segeomjeong Road near Jahamun toward the Blue House, passing several National Police and ROKA units en route.
At 10 p.m. on January 21, 1968, the unit approached the Segeomjeong–Jahamun checkpoint less than 100 meters from the Blue House, where Jongro police chief Choi Gyushik approached the unit and began to question them. When he grew suspicious of their answers, he drew his pistol and was shot by members of the unit who started firing and throwing grenades at the checkpoint. After several minutes of shooting, the unit dispersed, with some heading off to Inwang Mountain, Bibong Mountain, and Uijeongbu. Police Chief Choi and Assistant Inspector Jung Jong-su were killed in the firefight; one commando was captured but managed to commit suicide. During their escape, members of the unit also killed civilians riding on a bus.
On January 22, 1968, the ROK Army's 6th Corps began a massive sweep operation to capture or kill any members of the unit. Soldiers from the 92nd Regiment, 30th Infantry Division captured Kim Shin-Jo, who had been hiding in a civilian's house near Inwang Mountain. The 30th Battalion, Capital Defense Command, killed four commandos in Buam-dong and on Bukak Mountain.
On January 23, the 26th Infantry Division's Engineer Battalion killed one commando on Dobong Mountain. On January 24, 1968, the 26th Infantry Division and 1st Infantry Division soldiers killed twelve commandos near Seongu-ri. On January 25, three commandos were killed near Songchu. On January 29, six commandos were killed near Papyeong Mountain.
During the course of this assassination attempt, South Korean casualties totaled 26 killed and 66 wounded—mainly military and police, but also about two dozen civilians. Four Americans also were killed in attempts to block the escaping infiltrators from crossing the DMZ. Of the 31 members of Unit 124, twenty-nine were killed; one, Kim Shin-Jo, was captured, and the other one was presumed to have returned to North Korea.
In response to the assassination attempt, the South Korean government organized the ill-fated Unit 684. This group was intended to assassinate the leader of North Korea, Kim Il-Sung, but in 1971 the Unit revolted and most of its members were killed.
In May 1972, Kim Il-sung expressed regret and claimed that the Blue House Raid "was entirely plotted by extreme leftists and did not reflect my intent or that of the Party" to KCIA head Lee Hu-rak during their meeting in Pyongyang.
Kim Shin-jo grenade, wirecutters and dagger at the War Memorial of Korea
- Scenes from an Unfinished War: Low-Intensity Conflict in Korea, 1966–1968
- "January 1968: Assassins storm Seoul; US spyship seized". The Korea Times. 24 January 2010.
- Charles K. Armstrong (2013). Tyranny of the Weak:North Korea and the World, 1950–1992. Cornell University Press. p. 162. ISBN 9780801450822.