Retrospective

The author traveled back to Korea in April 2017 to complete research for his unpublished novel, The Blue House Raid.

Roger Shepherd (left) of  HikeKorea.com  is a guide, photographer, and writer, specializing in the Baekdu Daegan, Korea’s mountain spine that runs the length of the peninsula. Shown with Robert Perron and Irene Fusco.

Roger Shepherd (left) of HikeKorea.com is a guide, photographer, and writer, specializing in the Baekdu Daegan, Korea’s mountain spine that runs the length of the peninsula. Shown with Robert Perron and Irene Fusco.

North of the Imjin River, in what used to be called Indian Country, which used to be restricted to the 2nd Infantry Division, farmers now work. The US troops have pulled back, ceding that real estate to the ROK army which allows landowners to cross over. On 29 April 2017, I surrendered my passport at a ROK guardpost and crossed the Imjin River in a party of five: myself, my partner Irene, our guide Roger Shepherd, our second guide and translator Kang Euigoo (강의구), and Shin Jong-soon (신종순) who owned land north of the river. Thank you, Mr. Shin, for the tour, and for having us over for dinner that night.

We located the now-deserted Camp Wally, a company-size compound attacked by North Koreans in 1967 and which I worked out of for a few months in 1968. We continued north and west into former lock-and-load territory and were amazed to find a small park with lifelike statues of the Blue House raiders infiltrating through the DMZ. This park is about a kilometer south of the southern barrier to the DMZ and the actual point of infiltration.

Other sites, north and south of the river, commemorate events associated with the raid. Where the raiding party crossed the frozen Imjin, where they captured four civilian woodcutters, where they battled ROK forces. The North Korean commandos have become the stuff of legend! But near Changuimun, the Northwest Gate of Seoul, a statue reminds us of the seriousness of the January 21 incident. The statue is dedicated to Choi Gyu-shik, the police chief of Jong-ro district and occupies the spot where he and Assistant Inspector Jung Jong-su gave their lives intercepting the commandos—less than a kilometer from the Blue House.

Our Guides

Roger Shepherd: A native of New Zealand, our guide Roger lives in South Korea and travels to North Korea. Irene and I engaged Roger for a week of hiking from Wolchulsan National Park to the southern tip of Korea. The following week, we met up again in Seoul and traveled north to Paju province to revisit (for me) the old haunts.

Kang Euigoo (강의구) with Robert Perron and a commando

Kang Euigoo (강의구) with Robert Perron and a commando

Kang Euigoo (강의구): Euigoo is a friend of Roger and helps him with translation work. Euigoo set up an itinerary for our trip to Paju, arranged meetings, and translated at the meetings. Thank you, Euigoo, for the scope and quality of your help on this endeavor.

Woo Seongjae (우성재): In January 1968, Mr. Woo and three cousins, then young men out cutting wood, were taken prisoner by the North Korean commandos. They escaped with their lives and sent up the alarm that led to the interception of the raiding party. On 30 April 2017, Mr. Woo told me his story in detail and walked me over the ground where the events occurred. Thank you, Mr. Woo, for your time and attention.

Woo Seongjae (우성재) with Robert Perron and Kang Euigoo (강의구)

Woo Seongjae (우성재) with Robert Perron and Kang Euigoo (강의구)

Song Dalyong (송달용) and Cha Jeongman (차정만): Song Dalyong (송달용) is the former longtime mayor of Paju. Cha Jeongman (차정만) is the current (as of 2017) head of the Beobwon-eup county office. These gentlemen organized and facilitated the Woo interview, and treated us to lunch. Thank you, Mr. Song and Mr. Cha, for taking the time to help me.

Many thanks also to the following gentlemen who met with me:

Shin Jong-soon (신종순), mentioned above, who got us across the Imjin River, and had us over for dinner (cooked by his wife) at his home in Jangpa-ri.

Hong Seonghee (홍성희) who took us up Papyeongsan (Papyeong Mountain, 496m), overlooking Papyeongsan Valley, known in the old days as Blue Lancer Valley, and housed the 3rd Brigade of the US 2nd Infantry Division. We had coffee at his home in Nulno-ri.

Jung Woonchun (정운춘) who told us about the old days in Jangpa-ri.

Lee Jinyong (이진용) who told us about life in Gumpa-ri during the Korean War of 1950-1953 and after.

Shown from left to right: Cha Jeongman (차정만), Woo Seongjae (우성재), Kang Euigoo (강의구), Song Dalyong (송달용), Robert Perron, and Irene Fusco. Photo by Roger Shepherd.

Shown from left to right: Cha Jeongman (차정만), Woo Seongjae (우성재), Kang Euigoo (강의구), Song Dalyong (송달용), Robert Perron, and Irene Fusco. Photo by Roger Shepherd.