North admitted KAL bombing in 2007: official

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North admitted KAL bombing in 2007: official

A slip of the tongue three years ago implicated North Korea in the bombing of a South Korean commercial airplane, a local official said Sunday.

A high-ranking South Korean government official said in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo that Ri Gun, the director general of the North American affairs bureau of North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, was trying to persuade other countries to take North Korea off a U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism during six-party talks in Beijing in 2007.

Ri allegedly said that North Korea had “not engaged in an act of terrorism since the KAL explosion,” tacitly acknowledging the bombing for the first time in over 20 years, according to the South Korean official, who requested anonymity. Kim Kye-gwan, vice foreign minister of North Korea, was also at the meeting, the official said.

When the South Korean government official demanded an apology for the bombing, Ri was said to have gone silent.

North Korea has officially maintained that the KAL explosion was a fabrication by South Korea.

On Nov. 29, 1987, a Korean Air Boeing 707 heading to Seoul from Baghdad blew up over the Andaman Sea, killing 95 passengers and 20 crew members. A young North Korean woman named Kim Hyon-hui admitted to stowing explosives in the overhead compartment of the plane during a stopover in Abu Dhabi. Kim and her North Korean accomplice, Kim Seung-il, took cyanide capsules to avoid arrest. Kim Seung-il died, but Kim Hyon-hui survived. The two had been traveling under false Japanese passports.

Kim was sentenced to death on March 27, 1990, by South Korea’s high court but was given a presidential pardon the following April.

By Christine Kim, Chun Su-jin []
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