How the Kims Kill: A Closer Look at North Korea’s Affinity for Murder

North Korea makes the news almost every day with some sort of provocation or new crime against humanity. They don’t really have any shame for their actions anymore since they know the people in their country won’t be privy to the information unless they’re receiving the leaflets that some activists are sending over the border via balloons. One tool they are not shy of using is their ability to assassinate people, and they have a long history of doing so. Some attempts failed, others were scarily successful. Here’s a brief glimpse of the assassinations and attempts on North Korean enemies.

1968: Park Chung-Hee

Chung Hee Park, President of South Korea (right), points to a painting of Castle Schleissheim as his interpreter looks on, Germany, circa 1965.
Park Chung-Hee, President of South Korea (right) had 31 North Korean commandos hunting him down. | Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Park Chung-Hee was the target of one of the largest clandestine operations led by the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. During his time as president of South Korea, a team of 31 specially trained commandos, known as “Unit 124,” snuck across the demilitarized zone with a single goal of killing Park Chung-Hee in the Blue House (South Korea’s equivalent to the White House).

Unit 124 was almost successful in their mission and actually made it very close to succeeding in the Blue House raid. They failed when sentries at one of their campsites along the way came across a group of four brothers. When they captured the brothers, they brought them back to the commander of the unit. The commander thought he would teach the boys the virtues of communism, and they ended up proclaiming their loyalty to communism. The commander let them go and they went to the police.

A manhunt across the countryside ensued. Unit 124 had been smart enough to disguise themselves as South Korean soldiers along the way and made it through many checkpoints on their way to the Blue House. However, their plans were foiled when a sentry challenged them and they opened fire. A gunfight broke out and 29 of the 31 commandos were killed. Additionally, 92 South Koreans, soldiers and civilians alike, had perished.

Next: An all-out assault might not be the trick.

1983: Rangoon bombing

two North Korea guards in green uniforms with binoculars
Military officers are largely responsible for the attack. | Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

On October 9, 1983, a group of individuals placed a bomb at the Martyrs Mausoleum in Rangoon, Burma. The bomb was placed there because then-president Chun Doo-Hwan was expected to lay a wreath in the mausoleum.

Again, things didn’t quite go as plan. The president was running a few minutes behind and the bomb went off before his motorcade had even arrived. 17 South Koreans ended up dying, including two presidential aides, and four government ministers.

The Washington Post reported on the story at the time and said: “Japanese and South Korean analysts believe that the bombing in Rangoon that killed 17 South Koreans and four Burmese was probably planned under the supervision of the son and heir apparent to North Korean President Kim Il Sung.” While there wasn’t any hard evidence of North Korea’s involvement, the way the plot came out of the Burmese court places blame squarely on North Korea.

Next: Revenge is not only a cliche, it was actually a motive for one assassination.

1996: A diplomat suffers North Korean vengeance

South Korean marine corps search a North Korean combat-class submarine after its discovery on the northeast coast of South Korea some 20 Kilometers south of the demilitarized zone
A North Korean submarine similar to this, ran aground in 1996. | Kim Jae-Hwan/AFP/Getty Images

In 1996, a North Korean submarine ran aground in South Korea. 26 commandos ended up slipping to shore and wearing South Korean military uniforms. This seems to be common practice for the North Koreans at this point. Of those 26 commandos, 22 were eventually killed by South Korean soldiers, to which the DPRK vowed revenge.

One month later, a South Korean diplomat serving in the Russian city of Vladivostok had appeared to have been bludgeoned to death outside his door. However, upon further inspection of Choi Duk-Keun’s body, two pin sized holes were found. They later found that the body had also been poisoned with the same exact poison that the commandos from the submarine were found to have.

Next: Why even try to hide it anymore?

1997: Shot down in the streets

Fictional portrait of north korean male soldier
A fictional portrait of the North Korean male soldier | Roberuto/Getty Images

Eventually, it just get’s to the point where there really doesn’t need to be a huge operation. Why not just start killing people in the street? Well, that’s what happened in 1997. Yi Han-Yong was a half-cousin of Kim Jong-Un, the direct cousin of Kim Jong-Nam. Yi Han-Yong defected to South Korea while he was away at school in Switzerland.

Later on, Yi was running low on money and decided to cash in on his family story. He ended up selling the story of his family for publication. A move that was not well received by the DPRK. Yi was later shot twice in the head by two presumed DPRK agents outside his home in Bundang.

NextHis death was also believed to be a warning to North Korea’s highest level defector, Hwang Jang-yop

2009: The Defector

Hwang Jang-yop wearing glasses
Hwang Jang-yop | Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

Hwang Jang-yop was the secretary of the “Workers Party” in North Korea up until 1997 when he defected to South Korea. North Korea reportedly paid $40,000 to South Korean drug dealers to assassinate Hwang Jang-yop as well as other anti-Pyongyang figures. The plot wasn’t uncovered until 2013, almost four years after it had been hatched back in 2009.

The only reason the plan was discovered was that the three drug dealers in question were arrested and discovered to have been involved. The plan didn’t come to fruition either because Hwang passed away in 2010 from natural causes.

Next: There’s strange speculation as to why Kim Jong-Un’s uncle was arrested. 

2013: When your uncle doesn’t clap hard enough

A room of North Korean Government officials surrounding Kim Jong Un and clapping vigorously.
Jang Song-Thaek couldn’t be there this day. | STR/AFP/Getty Images

The Kims have no shame when it comes to murdering their own family members. Jang Song-Thaek was the uncle of Kim Jong-Un. Upon Un’s rise to power, there was a pretty standard purge of officials; just not on that scale. It is largely believed that Jang was arrested and later executed because he “half-heartedly” clapped for Un during a meeting.

More likely is that it was a show of power as the new leader of the DPRK. Especially given the horrific nature of how Un executes his enemies. One method involves having members of government watch as a battery of six anti-aircraft guns are used for executions.

Next: It doesn’t stop with extended family.

2017: Kim Jong-Nam

A man watches a television showing news reports of Kim Jong-Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, in Seoul
Kim Jong-Nam was killed with the deadly poison VX. | Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images

In probably one of the most bizarre assassination plots, Kim Jong-Un ordered North Korean Agents to kill his older half-brother Kim Jong-Nam. Instead of having actual agents of North Korea or nefarious characters perform the evil deed, it seems like they duped a couple of unsuspecting woman into using the chemical weapon VX on Nam.

The women involved in the plot claim to have no idea about the secret purpose they were tapped to do. They were under the impression that they were the stars of a prank TV show that required them to smack lotion on strangers faces and run away. Seems legit.

But in actuality, they were both holding two ingredients when combined create VX. Nam died shortly after the prank within minutes. Both women went to trial and have stuck by their story.

Next: What about his family?

2017: Kim Han-Sol

South Koreans watch a television news showing a video footage of a man who claims he is Kim Han-Sol, a nephew of North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Un, at a railway station in Seoul
It’s clear that Kim Jong-un doesn’t want any kin claiming power besides him. | Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images

Kim Jong-Un has absolutely no low to his depravity. Just recently, not even a full year after he killed his own brother, North Korean Agents were caught in an attempt on Kim Jong-Nam’s son. The plot was foiled, and Chinese intelligence was able to rescue the boy and catch two of the seven suspected agents.

There will be more attempts on North Koreans and North Koreas enemies so long as the Kim family continues to rule. The South Koreans know this all too well and that may be why they have created the “Decapitation Unit.”

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