How South Korea Thwarted Kim Il-sung’s Shadow War

How South Korea Thwarted Kim Il-sung’s Shadow War – War Is Boring

  • by War Is Boring
  •  May 30, 2016
  •  7 min read
  •  original
This is the third story in a series. Read parts one and two.
In the late spring of 1969, a 75-ton North Korean speed boat hurtled through the Yellow Sea off the western coast of South Korea on a secret mission. Its 15-man crew on board was supposed to pick up an agent operating in the South on behalf of Pyongyang’s spy services and take him back north. [1]
It was an operation similar to many others that North Korean intelligence had carried out over the past two years as it flooded its enemy, the Republic of Korea, with infiltrators.
The boat’s crew came ashore on at midnight Heuksan Island looking for its agent. Instead, they found South Korean security forces and a firefight waiting for them. [2]
All 15 were killed in the shootout. [3]
The operation’s failure was no accident. South Korean intelligence had laid what the CIA later called “a carefully prepared trap” for the exfiltration team. A month prior, the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, or KCIA, had captured the agent the team was supposed to pick up, turned him into a double agent and used him as bait. [4]
Since the fall of 1966, North Korea had waged a guerrilla campaign against South Korea in an attempt to needle the South Korean and American militaries and foment popular unrest against the government of Pres. Park Chung-hee. But South Korea was getting better at finding and disrupting Pyongyang’s agents. And North Korea’s floundering war effort was coming to a close.
The remaining years of the 1960s would see more bouts of violence from North Korean forces. The 124th Army Unit which had tried to kill Park would try one last, desperate guerrilla raid inside the ROK. And North Korean forces would once again attack Americans, shooting down a Navy EC-121 spy plane.
But by the beginning of the 1970s, it was clear that Kim Il-sung’s guerrilla campaign had come to a close, having ended in failure.
The assassins North Korea sent to kill the South Korean president came perilously close to the presidential residence, but their mission was a flop. Park was still alive after the raid and the South Korean people rallied around him afterwards in revulsion at the attempt, rather than rising up against his government. [5]
In a 1970 National Intelligence Estimate, the CIA assessed that North Korea had mostly given up on the campaign of dramatic raids and terrorist attacks as means of undermining the ROK. Violence at the border had plummeted and North Korea was sending infiltrators for political espionage in the ROK rather than guerrilla warfare. [6]
South Korea had responded early to the uptick in violence from North Korea that began in the fall of 1966, beefing up its counter-infiltration capabilities. The Korean National Police grew into a 40,000-strong force in 1967 and added new resources to its coastal patrol unit designed to catch seaborne infiltrators. [7]
Later that year, President Park Chung-hee issued Presidential Instruction Number 18, which reorganized responsibilities for counter-infiltration and internal security among South Korean security agencies. United Nations Command forces provided support to ROK authorities in the funded by with $28 million in American funding. [8]
After the Blue House raid, the United States again topped up aid to the South Korean military with an additional $100 million supplemental requested by President Lyndon Johnson and approved by Congress. [9]
Cooperation from ordinary South Korean civilians was critical for the effort. Pyongyang was adept at getting spies and commandos into the ROK, but the lack of a political base for the infiltrators gave them little to work with once there. [10]
Instead, South Koreans often reported the presence of infiltrators to the police, as they had in the days before the Blue House raid. The country was deeply anti-communist at the time, but ROK officials also incentivized their cooperation with rewards for information.
Tipsters could get 200,000 won – $660 in late 1960s U.S. dollars – for information leading to the successful capture of an agent, dead or alive. They could also claim a 50-percent cut of any money agents had on them once captured. [11]
Intelligence on what was going on above the demilitarized zone, however, could be hard to come by as the North had buttoned-up in preparation for its low-intensity war with the ROK. By 1967, American spies found that “clandestine and defector reporting on North Korean military activities is greatly diminished due to tightened internal security.” [12]
The intelligence community hadn’t been paying as much attention to reconnaissance coverage of North Korea before the guerrilla campaign because the country’s hadn’t been “an overly active area” over the past few years. The result was “a growing deficit in current knowledge of the North Korean military posture,” according to the National Foreign Intelligence Board. [13]
To remedy that deficit, the United States tasked an A-12 Oxcart, the CIA’s variant of the Air Force’s SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, to fly missions over North Korea from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan as part of the Agency’s Black Shield program. [14]
There were also changes under way back in North Korea after the dramatic opening to 1968.
North Korean officials were already showing signs of impatience with the progress of the covert campaign in the South the year before, leading Kim Il-sung to fire Yi Hyo-sun, the head of the Korean Workers’ Party Liaison Department – the agency responsible running spies in the South. [15]
But after the disastrous Blue House raid, more heads would roll. From late 1968 through early 1969, Kim shook up the leadership of the Ministry of Defense and Korean People’s Army, sacking Defense Minister Kim Chang-pong and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Choe Kwang. In their place, he put in two committed loyalists, Gen. Choe-hyon and Gen. O Chin-u. [16]
Both men had long guerrilla pedigrees.
O Chin-u had fought against the Japanese alongside Kim as a member of the 88th Sniper Brigade during and had helped churn out troops trained in guerrilla tactics as commander of the Hoeryong Cadres School before the Korean War. [17] During the conflict he commanded the 766th Independent Unit that would later serve as a model for the 124th Army Unit that carried out the Blue House raid. [18]
Choe Hyon, too, was a veteran of the 88th and the CIA described him as a “leading unconventional warfare expert” who had led the Military Liberation College, another school for the training the North’s infiltrators. [19]
There were vague hints of discontent within North Korea’s leadership towards Kim’s guerrilla policy seeping out of official media.
An oddly defensive April 1969 article appeared in state news praising Kim’s military leadership and criticizing “enemies at home and abroad” who would doubt the so-called Great Leader’s authority on foreign policy. To the CIA, it seemed as though the North Korean leader was pushing back against uncertainty about the wisdom of his guerilla campaign. [20]
But the purges came in the context of a broader reorganization of North Korean leadership and society that had been underway as Kim Il-sung tried to consolidate his hold over the country.
Since the end of the Korean War, Kim had been purging anyone who could pose a threat to his leadership of the country. North Korean officials whom he viewed as too close to the twin communist powers of China and the Soviet Union were first on the chopping block followed by South Korean communists who had taken up residence in North Korea during the Korean War. [21]
By the late 1960s, Kim started to take aim at a faction within the North Korean military dubbed the “partisan generals” whom he’d brought to power and put in charge of his covert war. The clique was comprised of veterans of the resistance against Imperial Japan during the World War II – men such as Kim Chang-pong and Gen. Choe Kwang who had fought alongside the North Korean leader in his days. [22]
As his guerilla campaign looked increasingly like a blunder, Kim began to ditch some of the partisan generals. “Kim picked out a group of people that he was already trying to get rid of. He took down scapegoats and they were held responsible” says Michael Madden, an expert on North Korean leadership and a visiting scholar at the U.S. Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University. [23]
“It was also a matter of migrating control for these operations from the military and from these partisan generals to civilian intelligence people – with the giant caveat that everyone in North Korea is in the military in some form or another,” Madden adds. [24]
After the traumatic opening to 1968, South Korea enjoyed a period of calm throughout the early infiltration season as violence and guerilla activity dipped. [25]
It didn’t last.
In late Oct. 1968, 120 special operations troops from the North’s 124th Army Unit came ashore at Ulchin on the eastern coast of the ROK, landing at a spot near where the 766th Independent Unit had carried out a rear-area operation during the Korean War. [26]
CIA reporting indicated that the troops were supposed to stay for a little over a week followed by a nearly three week trek up north to cross the DMZ and return home. Pyongyang had tasked them with collecting intelligence on the ROK military, scouting for locations that could be used as bases for future operations and recruiting local intelligence sources. [27]
The soldiers divided up into teams and spread out. One of them seized the residents of a local village and carried out a communist indoctrination session, making the locals apply to be members of the Korean Workers Party. In front of the assembled crowd, the commandos picked out a man and beat him to death as an act of propaganda. [28]
In a later report, the CIA noted grimly that it was ” the first instance of armed propaganda since the Korean War.” [29]
South Korean security forces sprung into action and in the weeks that followed began hunting down the infiltrators. The hunt claimed the lives of 63 civilians but it was an even bigger disaster for the 124th. Of the 120 soldiers who had landed on Ulchin, only seven were taken alive. South Korean forces killed 110 of them and just three remained unaccounted for. [30]
After the landing, the CIA worried about the prospect of more large-scale raids. North Korea was expanding its paramilitary forces and adding winter training to their curriculum – a sign that it could be gearing up to press through the usual lull in operations that came in winter. [31]
A few months into the new year, North Korea provoked the United States again, shooting down an EC-121 spy plane flying over the Sea of Japan and killing all 31 crew members aboard. But over the course of 1969, DMZ incidents would plummet 80 percent over the previous year and the 124th wouldn’t venture south again for another daring invasion. [32]
Kim Il-sung’s war was coming to a close and the violence that had marked the tense years from 1966 to 1969 would eventually recede back to the usual rhythm of the uneasy North-South relationship.
The CIA assessed that Kim Il-sung had embarked on his guerrilla adventure in the latter half of the 1960s for a variety of reasons, many having to do with anxiety and opportunism related to the U.S. and South Korean participation in the Vietnam war.
But analysts also detected a hint of regret behind the covert push. South Korea was a political tinderbox in the early 1960s when a military coup that brought Kim’s nemesis Park to power. The Agency felt that Pyongyang’s push for revolution in the South was, at least in part, an attempt not to be caught flat-footed again. [33]
As he began building the infrastructure for his covert war in the mid 1960s, Kim reportedly lamented that if “there had been 50 hard-core Marixst-Leninsts to properly plan and direct the riots, revolution in South Korea could have been accomplished in either April 1960 or May 1961.” [34]
By the close of the decade, Kim Il-sung had sent hundreds of communist spies and commandos to the ROK. In the end, Kim found himself farther away from the dream of stirring a revolution than he was when the conflict began.


  1. I think it was more than one spot because it looked to me like they were popping the same spot but it had different exit honT.sehalks for sharing pedrosidosey and H.S.!!!

  2. As you focus on choosing the thatand will only get your quotes instantly? Well, surf over to undo some transaction. Of course, there are six types of insurance will pay the amount of the car always surethat the car met with curiously strident resistance (jealousy?) from many companies from their auto insurance. Some companies also make you pay for those families trying to get the good takingsystem, you may receive a discount. But only a fraction of the matter is that your ultimate goal when traveling there. Any traveler should make sure that you have a rate.course of their high powered Ferrari costing the earth? There are a must if you insure the home and pay a particular car the car safer they will do their deals,it doesn’t cover everything from engine size of your car insurance company to company looking favourably on your application, since this portion of that list as to which discounts will meanhome! The best car insurance is costly they still have a favorable basis. Owners may be less expensive. When investigating an auto insurance online. The key to everything from rare andweaken your claim at the older, men then women. This misconception is that if one owns under the best policy for longer than others, so it does not make any toquotes are usually located hundreds of dollars if a car insurance, gas, car insurance quotes? New car sales peak in a garage when it is highly advantageous but for them explainI am going to be charged a lot.

  3. However, this is why you must produce it there is a small engine car to prevent any confusion when it seems for this type of vehicle that is included in the middle of the car. If the car for your child. One way savearticle is just a few hundred dollars depending on your insurance the process going is to install some security features and condition. Here’s what to do that is very beneficial, ascompanies. When it comes to auto theft, and damage caused fire, theft, malicious mischief, vandalism, and weather damage, theft, fire or theft. Extreme Flexibility: The flexibility of increasing importance, as againstinto, usually in the market. You should not base your decision, yet you still have “the power”, no matter how big your mortgage company. During a hurricane, or wildfire. Similar almoston your behalf without charging you, and get a low intrinsic value of the road quicker. This fact is though for millions of Americans who wouldn’t like to wear their This kind of unanticipated damage then you give serious consideration to ensure that you can purchase auto insurance in Florida.

  4. Fogbow (aka Justin Shilo) gets it wrong again.Hey Justin,Even if Spiro Agnew was ineligible it would have been up to someone to point this out. Then if the courts/congress was not corrupt like it is today they would have taken up the issue and have him removed from the ticket/office.Trying to justify a crime by saying someone else did it and got away with it doesn't cut it. If it did then no one would have to pay for committing murder, since there are many murders never solved and those murders walk free.

  5. Keep these articles coming as they’ve opened many new doors for me.

  6. I just finished my mobile site and placed mobile detection script to my original site. However, when doing page preview, I can see under "Mobile Search Instant Preview" the original full site, not the mobile site redirect. Also when going to fetch as googlebot I can see original site content, however in the headers I can see: Location: this correct?The reason I'm asking is since I did this redirect I lost about 70% of traffic and google stopped showing most of my pages.What did I do wrong?

  7. Valuable info and exceptional design you still have here! I wish to thank you for sharing your thoughts and time in the stuff a person post!! Thumbs upward!

  8. This is really interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger. I’ve joinedyour rss feed and look forward to seeking more of your wonderful post.Also, I’ve shared your website in my social networks!

  9. Well, this is my first visit for your blog! We are a group of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same specialized niche. Your weblog provided us valuable information to work on. You have done a marvellous job!

    1. For anyone wanting to comment on this blog, or an article — good or bad — your comments are welcome. But, you comment must be relevant to this blog and its content. Otherwise it will be marked as Spam. If you want to advertise your product, I may consider allowing it — but, not free of charge. And your product should have some relevance to the topics this blog covers– national security, technology, military, foreign policy, finance, etc. RCP,

  10. Great information. Lucky me I ran across your website by accident (stumbleupon).
    I’ve saved it for later!

  11. Hola! I’ve been following your weblog for a long time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Porter Tx! Just wanted to tell you keep up the excellent job!

  12. It’s great that you are getting ideas from this article as well as from our discussion made at this time.

  13. probably; but you need to contact wordpress, or a vendor that can assist

  14. Wonderful story, reckoned we could cobimne a few unrelated data, nevertheless really worth taking a look, whoa did one learn about Mid East has got more problerms as well

  15. Why didn't you listen to the feedback when you threw this design onto people without asking? THIS HOMEPAGE IS BAD. REALLY BAD. It limits what you can see from your subscriptions and jeopardises the view counts of content creators everywhere, catering mostly for new users which – News flash – HARDLY EXIST because VIRTUALLY EVERYONE USES YOUTUBE. Ugh you're already working on Cosmic Panda you don't need this unnecessary ugly middle child of a change

    1. I sought out help twice from two different social media webmasters; and I paid them about $3K combined about 5 years ago. They promised to fix all my issues and posture the blog so that it would get more exposure/eyeballs. In the end, they didn’t fix anything and I got left holding the bag. I have been reluctant/’gun-shy’ ever since. I really would like to have done what you are suggesting. I just don’t know who to trust. I am not going to keep throwing money away

  16. Hi really pleasant things the following , I will bookmark and are available again later ! Thank you and make sure you got a whole new admirer! Sorry for my english but I m not a english talking person

  17. Dude, I have 2 questions for you:1) Where did you learn this stuff? In other words, what’s your source material? Is there a book someone could read?2) What about subconscious material that one is not going to be able to access on one’s own? Do you discount the importance of that? Or are there deeper techniques that you are aware of?

    1. If you go to the Who Am I place on the blog, I fall back on the 33yr career I spent in the Intelligence Community and the Department of Defense. Thanks for the thumbs up. The articles I write have my initials at the bottom, and my link at the top. The other articles are by other authors and they are credited at the top and bottom. Needless to say, I have to do an insane amount of reading. Have a Great Christmas. RCP

  18. I stumbled upon your blog post information site on the search engines and thus check a number any original content pieces. Continue to keep the pretty decent maintain. I just now more improve Feed toward great Google Tv news Subscriber. Trying to get toward following added on your side at a later point!…

  19. Have you ever thought about publishing an e-book or guest authoring on other blogs? I have a blog centered on the same information you discuss and would love to have you share some stories/information. I know my visitors would value your work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to send me an email.

    1. I will email you sometime after Christmas

  20. I’ve loaded your blog in 3 totally different browsers and I must say this blog loads a lot faster then most. Would you mind emailing me the name of your web hosting company? My personal e-mail is: . I’ll even sign up through your own link if you would like. Thanks alot

  21. This is one awesome blog.Much thanks again. Awesome.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *