Rangoon Bomber ‘Won’t Go to North or South Korea’

    April 25, 2007 08:43

    A North Korean agent involved in a bombing that killed four South Korean Cabinet members in Burma in 1983 says he neither wants to return to North Korea nor settle in South Korea. Burma is reportedly mending ties with North Korea, 24 years after severing them in the wake of the bombing at the Martyr's Mausoleum in the capital Rangoon, where the Southeast Asian country's founding leader Aung San is buried.

    The Burmese exile magazine Irrawaddy offered a glimpse of the bomber’s mind in its online edition on Monday. The magazine quoted a former fellow inmate of Kang Min-chul’s as saying the bomber worries he would be branded a traitor if he returns to the North but could face trial for trying to assassinate South Korean president Chun Soo-hwan if he goes to the South. Kang is the sole survivor of three bombers.

    Burmese investigators in November 1983 concluded Kang and two other agents sneaked into Burma on direct written orders from Kim Jong-il, now the North Korean leader. Lieutenants Kang and Shin Ki-chul carried out the bombing, which killed 17 people including then deputy prime minister So Suk-chun and injured 13, under the leadership of Major Zin Mo. Shin was shot dead by Burmese police on the scene, while Zin and Kang were arrested. Zin was later executed by hanging. Kang lost his right arm after detonating a hand grenade to frighten off Burmese police. He was first sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to life in prison thanks to his cooperation with the investigation. Some analysts believe he was kept alive as a witness to counter North Korean claims that South Korea was behind the bombing.

    South Korean Cabinet members and presidential aides stand in front of the Martyr’s Mausoleum in Rangoon, Burma at 10:25 a.m. on Oct. 9, 1983, a few minutes before North Korean agents blew up the building.

    Kang is fluent in English and Burmese, having studied the languages in prison, but has problems speaking Korean since he rarely used his mother tongue during his years in jail. In a meeting with South Korean officials, Kang apologized for his actions and expressed hope to settle in the South. Former governments considered bringing Kang to Seoul, but the current government is reluctant, according to National Intelligence Service Director Kim Man-bok. In his parliamentary confirmation hearing on Nov. 20 last year, Kim said North Korea had argued that Seoul was behind the bombing and might be handed an opportunity to say, “I told you so” if Kang comes to the South.

    Perhaps he will take the option of the protagonist in Choi In-hun’s novel “The Square”, who goes missing while heading for a neutral country when he refuses to choose between North and South shortly after the Korean War.

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