Remembering the Blue House Raid
On January 21, 1968, 31 North Korean commandos snuck into South Korea in an attempt to assassinate President Park Chung Hee. The teams, organized into groups of six, made their way through the DMZ unnoticed. Along the way, some woodsmen spotted the groups. The infiltrators asked about security checkpoints, then attempted to indoctrinate the woodsmen and gave away some details of their impending raid. Let off with a stern warning, the terrified woodsmen reported the incident to the local police. A massive manhunt began.
Upon reaching Seoul, the infiltrators found the city to be far more frenzied (PDF link) than they had planned. The team leader realized plans needed to be changed and they could take advantage of the tense atmosphere of the capital by imitating ROK soldiers. The team donned ROK military uniforms and marched the last mile to the Blue House. Just 800 meters from their target, police stopped the group and began questioning them. The Northerner’s nervousness and fuddled responses tipped off police. As a questioning officer drew his gun, one of the heavily-armed North Koreans fired back. The officer dropped dead. The infiltrators dispersed and attempted to race back to their homeland, ROK and US military in hot pursuit. For the next ten days, firefights erupted throughout the city, as the commandos fought back against their hunters. None of them made it back to the North. Twenty eight of the commandos died, two were captured, and two remain unaccounted for, but are presumed dead. In the process of “liquidating” the team, 68 Korean military and civilians were killed and 63 were wounded. Three Americans were killed and three were wounded.
One of the captured North Koreans is Kim Shin-Jo, now a reverend at a Protestant Church in North Seoul. He is both a religious and ideological convert, and now speaks out openly against the Northern regime. “I am happy that I live in a country where anyone can live a good life when they make an effort,” said Rev. Kim in an interview with the Chosun Ilbo. On North-South relations, Kim says:
“What has really changed while the South has been pouring out so much money on the North?” he said. “North Koreans are only becoming hungrier and hungrier while the unilateral support from the South is extending the North Korean government’s life.”