Like other SEAL Team Six thrillers, Hunt the Dragon started with a comment by my co-author Don Mann about a top-secret mission he went on to North Korea as a member of SEAL Team Six. The real mission took place years ago. But as Don talked about it, I started to imagine what would happen if members of SEAL Team Six were called upon to deploy to North Korea today, and if so, what might be a likely cause.
Don and I try to keep our books as believable and up-to-date as possible, so my first task was to read everything I could find about North Korea. I learned that the totalitarian regime that has ruled the country of twenty-five million people since the 1950s is a self-described revolutionary and socialist state. Political power is highly centralized in one party and thirty-three-year-old Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un of the Kim family heads all major governing structures—as did his father Kim Jong-il and his grandfather Kim Il-sung before him.
All three leaders followed a strategic policy known as Songun (or military first), which explains why a country with per capita GNP of $1,800, according to the CIA World Factbook, maintains the world’s fourth largest standing army.
A friend in the intelligence community explained that Songun is derived from the Maoist idea that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” It is the primary reason that North Korea funds a very aggressive nuclear arms program, whose stated aim is to develop nuclear missiles capable of striking the mainland United States. In international terms, said one State Department expert I spoke to, Songun is a threatening posture towards the rest of the world so that other countries have to take impoverished North Korea seriously. Internally, it assures the Kim family will maintain political control over the government by passing on the title of Supreme Leader of the Korean Peoples’ Army.
I also learned that economically, North Korea is classified as a low-income country. A three-year famine that began in 1995 resulted in an estimated two million deaths. According to Human Rights Watch, North Koreans are “some of the most brutalized people in the world.” Amnesty International estimates that thousands of people are executed annually for political crimes and as many as 200,000 people are housed in six large political prisoner camps where they’re forced to do slave labor.
Armed with this basic understanding, I tried to imagine a credible contemporary scenario that would cause the president of the United States to authorize a top-secret SEAL Team Six mission into North Korea. Since the Kim Jong-un regime runs a criminal unit called Office 39 that specializes in counterfeiting money, stealing nuclear and missile technology, and even kidnapping scientific experts, I devised a plot that involves the kidnapping of a U.S. missile guidance system specialist in Switzerland, coupled with escalating threats to the U.S. from North Korea.
Now that we had a threat and a ticking clock, Don and I talked through the technical logistics of how a SEAL mission to North Korea might work—specifically, what would go into the planning, how the SEALs could deploy into North Korea undetected, and the kinds of weapons and equipment they would use. Then, because the unexpected usually happens on missions of this kind, I threw a big wrench in the works to see how Crocker and his men would react.
We hope you like it.