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Cross-border infiltrations exposed

Posted October. 05, 2000 15:26,   


On the afternoon of Jan. 19, 1968, in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, a military unit received a report that about 30 North Korean armed agents disappeared after they asked the way to Seoul.

This was the prelude to the 124th Army Unit incident. The army intelligence unit was tracking the route of the North Korean agents' infiltration with uncertainty. The movement and speed of the fully-armed agents exceeded 10 kilometers per hour during the night. The speed of the ordinary armed soldier's march at night is about 4 kilometers per hour.

Brig. Gen. Yoon Pil-Yong, the then army intelligence commander, ordered Maj. Gen. Kim Jae-Kyu, commander of the 6th District Command, to deploy ambush lines around the outskirts of the capital city to track down the speeding infiltrators. But the officers of the 6th District Command set up a operational plan on the assumption that the North Korean agents could not march more than 10 kilometers an hour. When the command deployed the ambush line, the infiltrators already had crossed the district.

After the incident, the South Korean Army dispatched its own special agents to the North. They are known to have landed at Wonsan and performed some operations. This was to demonstrate that if the North provoked, a due retaliation would follow without fail. Afterward, it is said that the intelligence commanders between the two Koreas reached an agreement to refrain from attempts to assassinate heads of state.

In May 1972, when Lee Hu-Rak, the director of the now defunct Korean Central Intelligence Agency, visited Pyongyang, he lodged a protest over the infiltration incident with the North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung. Kim was said to have answered that he had punished those who committed adventurous acts.

The Hyper Intelligence Department in charge of training anti-North Korean operations was first created in 1948. Then-President Park Chung-Hee, just following taking office, changed the name of the operation to the Army Intelligence Unit.

The North Korean agents might be called "human weapons," noting that they were able to march at nights at more than 12 kilometers an hour shouldering 30 kilograms of military equipment.

The Seoul government did not acknowledge the dispatches of the armed agents to the North, because it was in violation with the Armistice Agreement. However, the era of the Cold War is receding, the families of the victims demanding compensation and a National Assemblyman divulging the fact, the question is becoming a public dispute. This may signal an end to the preceding era.

Kim Jae-Hong nieman96@donga.com