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At that time, abject poverty was not limited to outlying coastal islands. The Korean War had wrecked the entire peninsula so badly that many thought Korea would never recover. Split at the 38th parallel, North Korea had inherited an industrial base, but South Korea was rural and agrarian, its agricultural production reoriented toward extraction by Japanese colonists for 50 years. During this time people still wore traditional garb, cattle carts could be found in central Seoul, and almost every road was unpaved. Local homes were heated with charcoal under the floor, and every year civilians would die from carbon monoxide poisoning.
“To drive from Seoul to Pusan you actually had to ford streams in some places, cross over single-lane pontoon bridges, and plan on taking three days to make the roughly 250-mile journey,” Gordon Cucullu said. Korea was considered to be a Third World backwater country by many, and some Special Forces soldiers actively resisted being assigned there.
However, for those that did make it to Special Forces Detachment K, they found a rewarding experience waiting for them. Redgate was soon taking the South Korean Special Forces out into the ocean to conduct infiltration training with American submarines. Det K and their Korean partners were picked up by a U.S.-made destroyer, which had been sold to South Korea, and were then transported into the South Pacific before being left alone in the middle of the ocean on their raft.