KAL 858 bombing investigation launches again

Posted on : 2007-07-12 16:30 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Inquiry initiated by victims’ families looks at NIS involvement

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, headed by Father Song Ki-in, announced on July 11 that it has launched an investigation into the KAL 858 bombing which took place just a month ahead of the 1987 presidential election. The investigation was launched at the request of 73 of the victims’ family members.

Korean Air Flight 858, with 115 people on board and bound for Seoul from Abu Dhabi, disappeared off the radar over the Indian Ocean off Myanmar on November 29, 1987. Later, Korea’s spy agency which at the time was known as the Korean Agency for National Security Planning announced that the flight had exploded mid-air, due to explosives planted in the cabin of the plane by North Korean agents. A few days prior to this annoucement, the agency had arrested a woman called Kim Hyun-hee, or Mayumi, as one of two suspects in Barain and brought her to Seoul. The spy agency said that Kim had staged the bombing under North Korean orders in order to hinder the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

The bombing was cited as one of the main reasons that the candidate of the ruling conservative party, established by the military dictator Chun Doo-hwan, won the presidential election, as it stirred public opinion toward the conservative party.

But suspicions around the bombing have continued to linger, especially due to the fact that no remains from the flight have ever been discovered. Some families of the victims have also indicated that certain “facts” in the investigative report authored by the spy agency contradicted the facts around the bombing.

Kim admitted to the crime and was sentenced to death in a court before Roh Tae-woo, Chun’s successor and the candidate who was elected a month after the bombing, granted her a pardon. She later married one of the man from the spy agency that investigated her.

According to the commission, in the process of investigating the bombing in 2005, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) Development Committee for Clarifying the Past could not solve growing doubts about the case by exempting former North Korean agent Kim Hyun-hee and core officials of the NIS from the investigation.

The NIS committee in 2005 said that the so-called “Rainbow Operation” had used the bombing as a means to elect the ruling party’s candidate in the presidential election which was held just a month after the bombing.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, however, now feels it is necessary to conduct an in-depth investigation on allegations surrounding the NIS and Kim Hyun-hee. The committee wants to clarify whether or not the NIS had known about the explosion in advance and interfered with the bombing.

The commission has also decided to probe the assassination of former first lady Yook Young-soo, which took place in 1974. Yook, wife of the military dictator Park Chung-hee, was shot dead by one of the participants at the independence day celebration held in a Seoul building that year. The Korea Central Intelligent Agency, then spy agency, later claimed that the assassin, caught on the spot, had gotten his orders from North Korea.

“Suspicions about how the assassin, Moon Se-kwang, could have participated in the event without an ID card have been raised time and again. It is imperative that we clarify the truth,” said a representative from the commission.

Please direct questions or comments to [englishhani@hani.co.kr]

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