UDU - A Super Secret South Korean Navy Spy Unit Unveiled
The Navy ranking has a special category, "UDU", which shows up on the citizenship papers of those involved. In today's atmosphere of North-South reconciliation, the plight of the agents dispatched to North Korea has seen much spotlights but there are some spots still under wrap. Until now, only agents of HID (Higher Intelligence Dept) or its successor AIU (Army Intelligence Unit) have stepped forward to air their grievances. The truth of the matter is HID or AIU refers to the Army spy operations, which is only a part of the total picture. There were spy operations run by other services and organizations as well.
This article tells the story of the Korean Navy's spy operation, whose veterans are totally forgotten and ignored. UDU, Underwater Demolition Unit, was officially established in 1954. Its parent organization was formed in September of 1948, when the US Army CIC (Counter Intelligence Corps) formed a secret spy unit in Korea. It was April of 1955 when this unit was renamed UDU.
Select members of UDU were flown to the USA for training. They boarded a US transport at the Pusan airbase and reached a secret training camp in America after a brief stopover at Okinawa. They were blind-folded for the entire duration of their long journey and so, they did know where they were in America.
UDU's primary missions were: kidnapping or assassination of key officials, destruction of key structures, re-supply and recovery of agents, demolition of transportation infra-structures, interception of signals and so on. UDU was in operation until 1971 when a North-South agreement to curtail hostile actions was signed. However, UDU exists even today and it is not known if it had actually ceased its operations after the 1971 agreement.
Initially, UDU operated as a semi-covert and semi-overt unit and drew its members from active-duty naval personnel. But later it became a totally covert unit and drew its members from the civilian populace. A batch of 40-50 candidates was selected from military age youth, who were subjected to six months of harsh training at a secret training camp. The candidates signed a service contract with UDU. All but 10 or so recruits would survive the grueling training regime and become the elite members of UDU. They were trained to kill people using special martial arts. UDU ran like a business firm: for example, instead of the military ranks, chairman, department head, section head and so forth were used to designate one's rank.
Today, many of the former members of UDU are bitter because they feel that
they have been exploited by the government and that their considerable sacrifice
and services for the nation have not been properly acknowledged by the
government let alone any monetary awards, while people with lesser services
strut around with chest full of medals and receive pensions. They are
particularly incensed for being excluded from the proposed compensation of
former agents now on the table at the National Assembly and the recent
repatriation of former spies from North Korea. It is believed that there
are many UDU agents still alive in North Korea and the Seoul government could
have done more for their return home.
My first UDU mission was in 1961 and I completed about 40 missions since then until 1971. The most memorable mission was in 1963 when I was ordered to recover an agent and escort him home. The enemy discovered us and we fought a 40-min gun battle starting on the mainland until we reached Paikryong-do. The enemy used a speed boat to chase us and we ran out ammo. It was a touch and go, life or death situation. We barely made it.
My missions were mainly to:
I quit spy business in 1071 and I was assigned to normal duties. In 1980, I was transferred to a regular Navy unit and worked as a regular navy officer. I was honorably discharged in 1987.
As far as monetary compensations go, I expected nothing when I joined UDU. I did so because I loved my country and wanted to serve my fatherland. Medals or no medals - I don't care. They don't mean much to me. Most of my UDU comrades think the same. I might add that most of my comrades are dead now.
When I was in the service, I was proud of my elite status Once out in the civilian world, my elitism got in my way. Most of the few survivors are doing poorly - financially speaking. We receive next to nothing from the government. Some of us eke out a living as fishermen. We could use some help financially.