Robert McKnight: The view of North Korea from Uijeongbu
Published: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 5:48 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 5:48 p.m.
It is approximately 30 miles from the Demilitarized Zone (“DMZ”) separating North and South Korea, south to the small village of Uijeongbu (pronounced “We-john-boo”).
Conversely, it is almost the identical distance further south from Uijeongbu to the metropolis of Seoul in South Korea. The point is there are few points sitting more strategically between the two Koreas.
I have some familiarity with Uijeongbu having been stationed there in 1969-70 while serving as a 1st Lieutenant in the U. S. Army. I was assigned to the headquarters of I Corps, under the direction of two different three star generals.
Our mission was to coordinate a military response from the locally embedded 2nd and 7th U. S. Army Infantry Divisions against North Korea, if it attacked South Korea. While I was stationed in Uijeongbu at Camp Red Cloud, there were periodic incidents and flare-ups along the DMZ.
But clearly, the most provocative action by North Korea came under the direction of President Kim II-sung (the father of previous President Kim Jong-Il and the grandfather of current President Kim Jong-un) with their attack and seizure of our research ship, the U.S.S. Pueblo in the international waters of the Sea of Japan.
Although we were up to our eyeballs with fighting in Vietnam, we still came dangerously close to a military response against North Korea after this incident in 1969. After months of negotiations and sabre rattling, we were finally able to secure the release from the North of Pueblo Commander Lloyd Bucher and his crew to avert a major military conflict in Korea.
During the capture of the Pueblo crew, North Korea attempted to draw out a premature response from our troops by strafing MIG fighter jets through the Uijeongbu corridor, attempting to fly below our radar detection. Like now, it was a time of high anxiety for all positioned with the corridor.
Today, Camp Red Cloud is the headquarters for one our country’s most robust military fighting organizations—the 2nd Infantry Division. Additionally, the Republic of Korea troops stationed through the corridor are among the very best trained in the world.
Since our country’s original conflict in Korea in the 1950s, we have installed numerous armaments and weapons, many of which are clandestine to the public eye to respond to any attacks from the North with lethal dispatch.
Apparently the North Korean President Kim Jong-un is oblivious to this potential response based on his outlandish rhetoric. I can think of nothing that could unify our country and allies more than an attack by North Korea against democratic South Korea — especially among international economic powerhouses South Korea and Japan. Kim Jong-un, govern yourself accordingly.
Robert W. McKnight is a former Florida state senator and representative.