Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Guerrilla Conflict in Korea 1966-69

Lost Nomad links to an article about the 1966-69 'Second Korean conflict', when, hoping to create a guerrilla uprising in the south similar to the Viet Cong insurgency in South Vietnam, North Korea began initiating small-unit battles along the DMZ and inserting Commandos into the south, which culminated in 1968 when some 600 incursions by the North took place.
In barracks bombings, ambushes, firefights, booby traps and other attacks, 75 U.S. soldiers, sailors and air crew members were killed and 111 wounded. South Korean forces, defending a far longer stretch of the 151-mile DMZ, had a longer casualty list -- 299 soldiers killed and 550 wounded.
The article is from a US military website and focuses on the conflict from the point of view of the American soldiers who fought there, examining, for example, the fact that many of the US soldiers who took part in the conflict were never considered to have seen combat and were never given combat pay. An article by Andrei Lankov also briefly covers this conflict, but from a Korean perspective.

Each article fills in the gaps left by the other (and make interesting cases about historical memory in each country). As the Lankov article points out, for example, these more aggressive incursions (targeting ROK troops) began a month or so before the first US patrol was ambushed, from which time the US article dates the beginning of the conflict. That article also describes the ways in which the US military dealt with the North Korean incursions (by building an 18-mile, 10-foot-high chain-link razor wire-topped fence, for example) and credits "the allies' savvy tactics and the South Koreans' animosity toward their northern neighbors" for North Korea's defeat.

Lankov, on the other hand, argues that it was not so much animosity toward the north (as the south in the 60s was full of poverty and inequality and ripe for Marxist agitation) but the poor and hurried propagandizing techniques of the northern commandos sent to foment a guerrilla rebellion. Another factor he cites was the difficulty of waging a guerrilla campaign in a land of barren hills and paddy fields, which is what the south looked like before the success of the re-forestation program. The US article makes mention of the Pueblo incident, but fails to mention the 1968 attack on the Blue House by North Korean Commandos (which was the subject of another Lankov article).

What's interesting is that the (foiled) attack on the Blue House culminated in a shootout 300 meters from the target on January 21, 1968 - 2 days before the capture of the USS Pueblo and its 83 crewmen by North Korean patrol boats on Jan. 23.

Learning that these two rather important events took place within days of each other during a three-year-long guerrilla conflict waged by the North lets you see them as being part of a larger whole, instead of the separate incidents they're usually presented as.

Marmot has a post about the response South Korea planned to get revenge for the attack on the Blue House.

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