August 01, 2006 20:45
A fact-finding panel in the National Intelligence Service said Tuesday the bombing of Korean Air 858 jet in 1987 was indeed carried out by North Korean terrorists but exploited to hoist Roh Tae-woo to the presidency. Roh was the sidekick of the putschist president Chun Doo-hwan and candidate of the ruling Democratic Justice Party.
The families of victims and civil activists have alleged that the Agency for National Security Planning, the precursor of the NIS, masterminded the bombing. They claim 11 Korean diplomats suspiciously got off the plane in Abu Dhabi midway to Seoul before the aircraft blew up killing 95 passengers and 20 crew.
But the NIS panel concluded the allegations are baseless since the Korean consul general to Iraq Kang Seok-jae and his wife were killed in the bombing and no other government officials or diplomats were ever on board.
The panel also confirmed that Kim Hyon-hee, the surviving of two operatives who planted the bomb on KAL, is indeed a North Korean, putting an end to suspicions that the NSP lied about a set of pictures it said showed Kim. The committee refuted the allegation based on a new picture of the woman taken in Pyongyang in 1972, which it obtained from Japan.
Tackling the question whether the Chun Doo-hwan government made political capital out of the bombing to lever his chosen successor to the presidency in 1987, the panel concluded the military rulers did not intentionally bring the bombers to Seoul on the eve of the presidential election. But it said the Chun government “tried to use the bombing to create circumstances that were favorable to its presidential campaign for Roh Tae-woo." Kim Hyon-hee was brought to Seoul on Dec. 15, the day before the election, which Roh duly won.
In a separate investigation, the panel found that the intelligence agency inflated a spy ring case in 1992 by concocting three genuine but separate cases into a systematic network of South Korean operatives working for the North Korean Workers' Party. It said those charged in the case were given rough treatment during the investigation.
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