KAL Bomber Gets Red-Carpet Treatment in Japan

      July 21, 2010 09:47

      Kim Hyun-hee

      The sole surviving bomber of Korean Air passenger flight 858 is receiving the red-carpet treatment during a Japan visit, her first trip abroad since the 1987 bombing.

      Kim Hyun-hee, a reformed North Korean agent now living in South Korea, flew to Tokyo aboard a private jet courtesy of the Japanese government and was whisked to a summer home owned by former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in a tony area of central Nagano Prefecture. Kim claims to have information about Japan's most famous victim of North Korea's bizarre abduction campaign in the 1970s and 80s, Megumi Yokota, and is the subject of round-the-clock coverage by the Japanese media.

      According to the Yomiuri Shimbun, the summer home provided to Kim during her stay was where Hatoyama held dinner parties with former Democratic Party secretary general Ichiro Ozawa and Prime Minister Naoto Kan when he was an opposition lawmaker. Reports say Hatoyama, who once headed the party committee dealing with the abductee issue, "gladly" offered to lend his summer home to the ex-agent.

      Japanese officials and police gather in front of a private jet carrying Kim Hyun-hee at Haneda Airport near Tokyo on Tuesday morning. /Reuters-Newsis

      Around a hundred reporters camped out in front of the summer home. Japan's minister of state for the abduction issue, Hiroshi Nakai, explained that when Kim was training to be a spy in North Korea, her Japanese teacher was an abduction victim named Yaeko Taguchi. Known in North Korea as Lee Un-hae, Taguchi had left an infant son behind when she was kidnapped in 1978. Kim met Taguchi's son, Koichiro Izuka, in Busan last year and claimed Taguchi taught her to cook.

      Kim later wrote to Izuka later telling him she wanted to cook a meal for him the way his mother taught her. According to Nakai, Hatoyama offered his summer home so Kim could do that. Izuka visited Kim with his uncle and had dinner there.

      On Wednesday afternoon, Kim is scheduled to meet the parents of Megumi Yokota, who has come to symbolize the ordeal of abduction victims for Japan. Kim told Japanese officials in May last year that she met Yokota in North Korea.

      Japan in principle bans foreigners convicted of crimes and sent to prison for more than a year, and the statute of limitations still applies for Kim's crime of using a forged Japanese passport in the bombing, which led to some protests against her visit. But Justice Minister Keiko Chiba issued a special permit for her to enter the country. "If new testimony becomes available, it will lead to significant progress in the abduction issue," Nakai said.

      A summer villa owned by former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in Nagano Prefecture /AFP-Yonhap
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