South Korea’s “Decapitation Unit” Will Take Down North Korean War Leadership

The South Korean military has announced the long-anticipated special unit targeting the North Korean leadership in case of conflict, the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

The ceremony to launch the brigade took place on Friday afternoon, a military official told the news agency. The unit includes 1,000 soldiers belonging to the army’s special forces command that would be tasked with neutralizing North Korea’s war command. 

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-Moo referred to the brigade’s formation in September, following North Korea’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test to date. The unit’s goal is not necessarily the actual assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but its name was chosen to show South Korea’s military resolve.

“The best deterrence we can have, next to having our own nukes, is to make Kim Jong Un fear for his life,” Shin Won-sik, a general who served as the South Korean military’s top operational until his retirement in 2015, told The New York Times.

North Korea reacted to reports about the special forces earlier this week. “The puppet warmongers have pressed for the organization of the ‘decapitation unit’ by taking advantage of the U.S. imperialists’ execution of their policy for aggression on the DPRK,” read an article published on the state-controlled North Korean news agency KCNA, referring to the country by its official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

12_1_Kim Jong Un North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un is seen as the newly developed intercontinental ballistic rocket Hwasong-15’s test was successfully launched, according to this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang, on November 30. South Korea formed its long-anticipated special forces “decapitation unit” on December 1. KCNA/via Reuters

The launch of the special unit is not the only innovation announced in the South Korean military.

The country’s Air Force declared the creation of an airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) unit responsible for monitoring the North’s activities, working in close coordination with the United States.

“Its main mission is the production of information and surveillance to counter North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats,” said Colonel Kang Yoon-seok, the unit’s commander, quoted in Yonhap. “(We) will make all-out efforts to detect the indications of the enemy’s attack and threat in advance by maintaining 24-hour ISR capabilities.”

As part of the plans to strengthen the air force’s capability, two RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will be introduced next year, with two more to follow in 2019, as part of a 2014 contract with the U.S.

Both announcements follow North Korea’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which experts believe is the most powerful rocket Pyongyang has tested to date and puts the U.S. within its range. South Korea said the launch did not cross a “red line” in terms of provocations.

“The government does not think that North Korea’s latest test demonstrated full capability for an ICBM, including the re-entry technology and a precision guidance system. Seoul does not view the North as crossing the red line,” Lee Eugene, vice spokesperson at the ministry, said at a press briefing on Friday, quoted in Yonhap.

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