South Korean Special Operations


The Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) SEALs are regarded as one of the best, most capable, and experienced naval special warfare units in east asia. ROKN SEALs are heavily influenced by it’s American counter-parts in which has likely provided funding and expertise in the units creation and still continues are strong relationship and regularly undertakes joint training together.

Similar to that of the US Marine Corps and US Navy, the ROKN SEAL teams only take sailors who have proven themselves in the Navy before being eligable to volunteer for the grueling BUD/S(Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) selection process in which the failure rate is on average around 90%. Based on the US Navy SEALs BUD/S course, ROKN SEAL candidates undertake extreme physical and mental tasks. ROK SEAL instructors push candidates to the limit and would come across as brutal treatment.

Each team consists of some fifty operators and is divided into SEAL Team One, Two, and Three. Team Two is responsible for special warfare tasks that include intelligence gathering, raids, covert insertions, beach reconnaissance, and underwater demolition. SEAL Team Three servies as the nation’s maritime counter-terrorist and hostage rescue unit similar to that of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group


The ROKN UDT/SEALs were involved in reconnaissance missions in North Korea until 1980 when a number of operators were broken away to form the UDU intelligence unit. In 1993 the UDT/SEALs were tasked with standing up a maritime counter-terrorism unit which later became the Special Missions Bn. In the late 1990s the main focus was on defense of the coast from frequent attempts by the North to infiltrate agents into the South using midget submarines. In 1996, ROKN UDT/SEALs were involved in hunting down North Korean agents that had been stranded off the east coast of South Korea and in 1998 the unit was involved in the recovery and search of a North Korean midget submarine that had been accidentally snared in some fishing nets. Since 2009 the ROKN UDT/SEALs have formed the core of the Cheonghae anti-piracy task group deployed to the coast of Somalia. In the early morning of January 22, 2011, as part of Operation Dawn of Gulf of Aden, 15 ROKN UDT/SEAL members boarded the 11,000-ton chemical freighter Samho Jewelry which was taken by 13 pirates 6 days prior; 21 sailors had been held hostages. ROKS Choi-Young, a 4600-ton destroyer, dispatched its UDT/SEAL team at 4:58AM along with a Lynx helicopter which then circled the ship and fired machine guns to distract the pirates. The boarding party of 15 UDT/SEALs killed 8 pirates and captured 5 without taking any casualties after 3 hours of intense firefighting. All 21 hostages were secured, with one hostage suffering a non-fatal gunshot wound to the abdomen.


  • 1954- Navy Coast Squad founded under the Landing Squadron, UDT founded under Coast Squad
  • 1955- UDT (Underwater Demolition Team) founded
  • 1955- UDT inaugurated under the coast squad (present landing support squad), consisting of 7 instructing officers who completed the US UDT course and 25 soldiers who completed the 1st part of the B course (UDT basic). A total of 32 men.
  • 1968- EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal team) founded.
  • 1976- Special warfare (SEAL) task added
  • 1983- The modified 25th Special Warfare Corps founded, succeeding the special attack operations corps
  • 1986- 5th Operations Corps founded (modified to 56th Special Warfare Corps)
  • 1993- Anti-terrorist task added (Special Task Force Founded)
  • 1998- Special Ship Unit founded
  • 2000- Navy Special Warfare Unit founded


The ROKN UDT/SEAL teams take applicants among conscripts, petty officers, and officers. Most petty officers and all conscripts now apply before basic training while officers apply after commissioning (NA, ROTC, or OCS), completion of Surface Warfare Officer School (SWOS), and after they have been assigned to a ship. The BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL School) selection process is almost identical to the US Navy program, consisting of extreme physical and mental challenges such as Hell Week. Historically, Korean military training has not been known for its regard for human rights. The completion rate has been known to dip under 10% and usually hovers between 30-40%, leading to manpower problems as the unit continues to expand and has an increasing number of foreign commitments. Since 2010, most washouts have been retained as support personnel and equipment maintenance staff. Those who survive the first ten weeks are trained in open and closed circuit diving, demolition, land warfare and tactics before receiving the special warfare pin.


Batallion One consists of more traditional special warfare tasks, such as special reconnaissance (SR), direct action (DA), advanced forces operations, hydrographic reconnaissance and underwater demolition, with a focus on infiltrating and fighting behind enemy lines in North Korea. The Special Missions Bn specializes in visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS), maritime interdiction operations (MIO), and counter-terrorism (CT) serving as the nation’s maritime counter-terrorist and hostage rescue unit. In addition to the two battalions, there is the EOD unit which specializes in IED disposal and shallow water mine disposal and there are additional forward based units on both east and west coasts of the peninsula.

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