North Korea Would “Wipe Out” South Korea’s “Decapitation” Squad If It Tried to Kill Kim Jong Un, Report Says

An elite South Korean hit team that is poised take out North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during an armed conflict is so “inadequate” that it would be “wiped out” in a war with the North, top military analysts say. 

The main problem with the year-old unit is a lack of logistical support, a key South Korean defense analyst told London’s Financial Times.

“The [South] Korean army doesn’t have any low-altitude infiltration transportation [and] can still only accommodate about 300 troops,” Lee Il-woo, secretary-general of the Seoul-based Korea Defense Network said. “So even if the unit goes to Pyongyang, it is highly likely it will be wiped out by the heavily armed units of North Korea’s guard command.”

01_02_18_Kim_Jong_Un North Korean leader Kim Jong Un celebrates the launch of the Hwasong-15 missile, according to this photo from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), released on November 30, 2017. Getty Images

Another challenge is a lack of reliable reconnaissance assets. At the moment, South Korea often depends on the U.S. for solid intelligence.

Jang Young-geun, an adviser to the defense ministry, told the Financial Times, “Utmost priority should be placed on the acquisition of surveillance and reconnaissance assets, so we can get information about the movements of North Korea’s leaders in real time.” 

“Finding Kim Jong Un would be very difficult. Even with the U.S.’s capabilities, it still took them 11 years to find Osama bin Laden,” Jang added.

The commando team, created in 2017 as Kim’s regime ramped up its long-range missile tests, is comprised of roughly 2,000 soldiers and is officially known as the “special mission brigade.” But, unofficially, South Korea defense officials have often referred to the team as the “decapitation unit.” 

“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 unit until his retirement in 2015, told The New York Times in September. But, based on what experts are saying, it seems Kim might not have much to fear from the group.

Beyond locating Kim, the limited intelligence on North Korea would complicate an array of important factors in a potential war. In November, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said a ground invasion would be necessary for the U.S. and its allies to confidently eliminate all of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal given the lack of intelligence on the location of its military assets. 

But the North and South both seem to be doing what they can to avoid such a conflict and have signified an openness to holding talks about their differences in the new year. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump offered his thoughts on this potential diplomatic solution to the current hostilities, tweeting, “Sanctions and ‘other’ pressures are beginning to have a big impact on North Korea. Soldiers are dangerously fleeing to South Korea. Rocket man now wants to talk to South Korea for first time. Perhaps that is good news, perhaps not—we will see!"