There is certain irony in the fact that May 4, 2009 saw helicopter-borne South Korean SEAL snipers help drive away Somali pirates stalking a North Korean ship. Yet as tensions on their home peninsula mounted, a month later ROKN (Republic of Korea Navy) SEALs were deployed to carry out possible missions into North Korea and counter-missions by North Korean special forces along the South’s coast. Throughout their history, ROKN SEALs have monitored North Korea’s mini-submarines or hunted down North Korean agents, assassins, and saboteurs. Reportedly they have also carried out missions of their own along the coast of North Korea, particularly during the 1980s and 1990s. Once again tensions increase with North Korea and the ever-vigilant ROKN SEALs currently maintain a heightened state of alert.
History & Dynamics
The ROKN SEALs trace their beginnings to the Navy Coast Squad formed in 1954. Then in 1955, the UDT (Underwater Demolition Team) was founded with volunteers trained by seven officers who had completed US UDT training. A mere 25 UDT swimmers were selected from 300 who initially volunteered, and from then until now, the ROKN UDT/SEALs training has been heavily patterned after their US colleagues. A handful of ROKN UDT personnel served in Vietnam, and when North Korea seized the USS Pueblo in January 1968, ROKN UDTs reportedly worked jointly with US Navy SEALs on the planned rescue mission, codenamed “Red Fox.” In 1976, the special warfare mission was added to the UDTs, and by 1986 the SEALs were designated the 56th Special Warfare Corps within the ROKN Navy. In 1993, the Special Task Force was founded to perform anti-terrorist missions, and since 2000 the ROKN SEALs have been part of the Navy Special Warfare Unit.
ROKN SEAL initial selection and training is based closely upon the US BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) course. During the 24-week training regimen, ROKN SEAL instructors brutally push their candidates to the brink with only about 10% graduating. Following the initial physical conditioning and selection phase, trainee SEALs receive their basic combat swimmer training — including use of the Drager LAR-V closed circuit rebreathing system and other SCUBA gear. Underwater demolitions, helocasting, underwater navigation, insertions from submarines, and various other underwater insertion skills are also taught. The third phase then teaches land special warfare skills such as combat shooting, small unit operations, ambush/counter-ambush, combat demolitions, and reconnaissance. Small boat operations are incorporated throughout the three phases of training. Finally, the new operators must undergo parachute training at the ROK Army’s Special Warfare training facility. Other units within the ROK armed forces, namely ROK Marine Recons, ROK Army Special Forces, and ROK Air Force Pararescue, which have missions requiring small boat operations and combat diving, also receive their training with the ROKN SEALs.
There is certain irony in the fact that May 4, 2009 saw helicopter-borne South Korean…
by Chuck Taylor / Feb 9, 2010