Kim Jeong-il of North Korea ordered 150 Special Command Unit members to infiltrate into South Korea

During the Kwangju disturbance in May, 1980
Planned coup not carried out due to disbandment of the Special Command Unit


President Moon Jae-in (4th from the right) and other politicians who sing the theme song “March of You” during the 37th anniversary memorial service of the Kwangju Incident held in Kwangju, South Korea. Provided by the Korean Segye Ilbo


 There were violent mass demonstrations in the city of Kwangju located in south western part of South Korea in May, 1980. The South Korean military cracked down on the demonstration causing many casualties. It has been revealed that Kim Jeong-il of North Korean ordered a Special Command Unit called “tokkoutai (Japanese-style suicide corps)” to infiltrate into the city and initiate a coup d’état at that time.

 In South Korea, North Korea’s involvement in the Kwangju Incident has been suspected for many years without confirmation. Kim Jeong-il’s order to the unit to infiltrate into South Korea did not lead to the intervention in the incident. This recent revelation supports the fact that North Korea came close to intervention in the incident with careful preparation.

 The Unit had been already disbanded due to administrative miscommunication and the plan was not carried out at that time after all. Kim reportedly reorganized the unit subsequently and looked for an opportunity to send it into South Korea. A former member of the clandestine operation section of the Korea Worker’s Party who worked in the section back then revealed this to the Sekai Nippo on May 21.
(Editorial staff writer Isami Ueda)

 The Special Command Unit was organized by Kim Jeong-il who had been designated as Kim Il-sung’s heir came to control the Anti-South Korean Section in 1974. About 150 men were selected from Kum Seong Political & Military University(current Kim Jeong-il Political & Military University)which belonged to the party’s Operations Department. After undergoing special trainings in Yangdok County, South Pyongan Province for about one year, they were assigned to liaison offices in coastal region including Haeju, Nampo, Wonsan and Cheong Gin and waited for an order.

 Kim Jeong-il tried to order them to infiltrate into South Korea during confusions caused by the Kwangju incident and carry out riots and coup d’ état in the South Korean society. However, the Special Command Unit had been disbanded due to administrative and management problems and the plan was not carried out.

 Nevertheless, Kim Jeong-il organized an armed propaganda instigation unit under the party’s Unification Front Department which controlled the policy toward South Korea in lieu of the Special Command Unit around 1982. He had 50 men enter Kum Seong Political & Military University separately to nurture the unit members. The unit reportedly operated for about 5 years.

 North Korean leadership’s mentality around that time was they were “willing to sacrifice 90 men out of 100 men dispatched with only 10 survivors to achieve the purpose” (the party source referred to above) in infiltration operations in South Korea.

 The administration of Moon Jae-in, the new president of South Korea, held the annual memorial service event for the victims of the Kwangju Incident on May 18 anniversary of the demonstration with a record number of participants. In his speech during the memorial service, President Moon reiterated his promise to “include the spirit of the incident in the preamble of the Constitution.” For the first time in the past 9 years, the theme song of the incident “March for You” was included in the program of the ceremony and all participants sang the song in unison with hand in hand. Participants were intoxicated in the “significance” of the incident from the beginning to the end.

 North Korea still regards the Kwangju Incident as a triggering event to “bury the pro-US conservative force by inheriting the fighting spirit of Kwangju demonstrators” (May 18 statement from the press secretary of the National Reconciliation Council). The theme song was used as the back ground music of the North Korean film “Symphonic Poems for You,” scenario of which was jointly written by Koreans who illegally visited North Korea and a local author in North Korea and was included in the popular song album “Tongil (Unification)Songs 100 selection”(Yun I-sang Music Institute)(South Korean public security sources).

 The Moon Administration so far made no comment about the reality in which North Korea is trying to take advantage of the anti-conservative message of the Kwangju Incident in South Korea for political purposes.

Kwangju Incident in South Korea
In 1980, assassination of then-President Pak Jong-hui triggered the increased popular demand for democratization. Chon Too-hwan, then security commander (who subsequently became the president) who grabbed the power by a military coup arrested Kim Dae-jung and other opposition party leaders. Citizens who negatively reacted to Chon’s actions started uprisings in Kwangju in the southeastern region of South Korea where anti-government sentiment was strong. The military suppressed those uprisings by force and a few hundred citizens were killed in the clashes with the military. On May 18 anniversary of the incident, a memorial service has been conducted in the city every year and the event attracts the leftists who romanticize resistance against the military dictatorship.