Yes, this is a true story.
Recently the South Korean defense minister caused a stir when he announced the military was forming a “decapitation unit” of airborne special operators to target Kim Jong-un in the event of a conflict. While Seoul has long been exploring such a contingency, its prominent public airing is undoubtedly meant as a pressure tactic to cause Kim to reconsider how he might best ensure his own survival.
South Koreans are quite familiar with the stress caused by the threat of “decapitation.” That is because South Korean presidents have been the target of two major assassination attempts orchestrated by Pyongyang, both of which resulted in dozens of deaths.
Unit 124 Crosses the DMZ
At midnight on January 17, 1968, thirty-one men in dark overalls quietly slip across the demilitarized zone separating North from South Korea. This sector, located thirty miles directly north of Seoul, is lined with barbed wire and dense minefields, and overlooked by the sentries and machine-gun nests of the U.S. Second Infantry Division.
But the infiltrators clip through the barbed-wire fence, bypass or disarm the mines, and creep past the enemy guard posts, which are helpfully illuminated by the fires the sentries use to combat the winter chill. They camp out just a few miles away from the American division’s headquarters. The following evening, they penetrate deeper into South Korea. Confronted by the frozen Imjin River, they don white sheets for camouflage and skid over to the other side.
These men belong to Special Forces Unit 124, and have been training for this moment for two years. Selected for physical strength and political loyalty, they have been instructed in marksmanship and jiujitsu, taught to speak with southern accents and made to undergo gruesome tests of endurance, including going for days without food and sleeping with dead bodies in a grave. Each man is loaded down with over sixty pounds of gear, including a submachine gun, a pistol and eight hand grenades.