North and South Korea: A history of violence





North and South Korea are still in a state of war technically because they never signed a peace treaty after an armistice ended the 1950-53 conflict.

Since the war in which hundreds of thousands died – the exact number remains unclear – relations between the two countries have been jolted by violent incidents. The latest – the alleged sinking of a South Korean warship by a North Korean submarine – is by no means the most blatant act of aggression from Pyongyang.

In January 1968, a team of North Korean commandos crossed the demilitarised zone – one of the world's most heavily militarised areas – in an attempt to kill Park Chung-hee, the South Korean president. The 31 commandos, disguised as South Korean soldiers, were stopped 800 metres from the Blue House, the official presidential residence, by a police contingent. The North Koreans gave themselves away with their nervous replies, then shooting broke out. Only two of the 31 commandos escaped; the rest were tracked down and killed. In response, Seoul reportedly organised its own assassination squad, Unit 684, which was disbanded in 1971.

Days after the attempt on President Park, North Korea seized the USS Pueblo in international waters, leading to a diplomatic confrontation between the US and North Korea. One US sailor was killed and the other 82 were released, but only after 11 months and the US issusing an apology, a written admission that the Pueblo had been spying, and an assurance that the US would not spy in future.

The written apology, however, was preceded by a verbal statement that it was written only to secure the liberty of the crew. The USS Pueblo is still in North Korean possession, docked in Pyongyang where it is on display as a museum ship....



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