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Mission 21 -Detail
Korea: The Enemy Within

Anin Beach, North Korea. September 18, 1996: By itself, the event would be a minor item in history. Taken with the 50 years of attacks and provocations that precede it, it’s an act of war – a long, cold, endless war.

A North Korean submarine slips through shore defenses on a secret mission. Its cargo – commandos sent to spy on America’s ally to the South, the Republic of Korea. Their exact mission is unknown, but previous missions have included bombings, assassination attempts, espionage, and on at least one occasion, full-scale invasion.

The rancor between North and South Korea goes back to 1950 when North Korea launched a surprise attack against the South and triggered the Korean War. The guerilla fighting that ensued took a million lives per year and pit South Korean and United Nations forces against the communist North and their Chinese backers. Though the war ended in 1953, no formal treaty was ever signed, and the ensuing years have offered little hope of a resolution.

1968, Park Assassination Attempt - Commandos of North Korea's 124th Army Unit attack the Korean presidential palace, the “Blue House,” coming within 500 meters of the president's residence before being stopped. 28 commandos and 37 South Koreans are killed in the incident.

1968, USS Pueblo Seized - A US intelligence vessel operating in international waters is attacked by North Korean naval vessels and MiG jets. 82 crew members are captured and held prisoner in North Korea for 11 months.

1970, Another Assassination Attempt - A North Korean agent attempts to place a bomb intended to kill South Korean president Park Chung Hee at the Seoul National Cemetery. The agent is killed.

1974, Yet Another Presidential Assassination Attempt - A Korean resident of Japan visiting Seoul attempts to kill President Park and kills Park's wife instead.

1976, Poplar Incident - A US Soldier is axed to death by North Korean soldiers when he attempts to trim a tree in the demilitarized zone (the DMZ) between North and South Korea.

1983, Burma Bombing - North Koreans attempting to assassinate South Korean president Chun Doo Hwan detonate a bomb in Rangoon, the capital of Burma. They kill four South Korean Cabinet ministers and 13 other South Korean delegates.

1987, KAL Flight 858 - A female North Korean agent places a bomb aboard a South Korean jetliner. It explodes over the Andaman Sea, killing all 115 people on board. This is seen as an attempt to derail the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

2002, The Present Crisis - In October of 2002, North Korea stuns the international community by admitting that it continued its nuclear weapons program after agreeing to freeze it in 1994. Three months later, North Korea announces its withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, effective immediately. As of March 2004, negotiations appear deadlocked.

Incredibly, this is just a sample. (See the News Coverage page for even more.) With this history as background, the 1996 submarine incident provides insight into the past, a sense of the urgency with which the South Koreans hunted the commandos, and -- possibly -- a peek into the future.


Korea: The Enemy Within

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