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The Foolishness of Strategic Decapitation in North Korea

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NewsHubMy favorite Korean movie growing up was Silmido , a military drama about 31 death row convicts forcibly enlisted into a covert assassination attempt against North Korean President Kim Il-sung.
For two years, the convicts are subjected to grueling physical and mental training. Whether for personal redemption or the promise of freedom, the convicts steadily become an elite group of top-tier special operators, steely-eyed killers with a singular mission. Yet, none of the convicts turned assassins ever cross into North Korea. Through a series of twists, the unit coded named Unit 684 is deemed a liability and subsequently slated for elimination by their military and political handlers. However, members of Unit 684 mutiny on the night of their execution, killing their handlers and escaping the remote island of Silmido. In an ironic twist, the very men trained to kill the North Korean president turn their weapons toward the South Korean president who betrayed their trust and allegiance. The movie ends with a dramatic firefight between Unit 684 and the South Korean military, who have labeled them communist agents.
The military leaves no survivors. All evidence of the covert program is buried and forgotten for decades.
As a child, I was shocked at the ease with which a government disowned its soldiers, even if they were convicts. Yet, as an adult, I am amazed at the stupidity of the whole affair – particularly the belief that a simple assassination would end the geopolitical stalemate on the Korean peninsula. To add insult to injury, the South Korean government recently announced its plans for a “decapitation unit,” a military euphemism for a squad of assassins, whose singular mission is to target and eliminate strategic North Korean leaders.
The South Korean government argues a swift targeted operation against North Korean leadership will serve as a prepared retaliatory strike against any North Korean provocation, doubling as a deterrent to North Korean nuclear ambitions.

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