Getting to the bottom of the case

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Getting to the bottom of the case

The controversy over the mid-air explosion of Korean Air 858 flight near Myanmar in 1987 - a year before the Seoul Olympics - heats up again. It all began with North Korean terrorist Kim Hyun-hee’s plea for a reinvestigation into what had happened to her during the liberal Roh Moo-hyun administration. The U.S. government’s exceptionally early decision to declassify secret diplomatic documents on the incident may now bring a decisive conclusion to the mystery. According to the documents, U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed Kim as a North Korean agent, and the finding could help correct misconceptions among liberals who tried to tailor the case to their tastes.

Shortly after the bombing in 1987, the Board of National Security and Planning concluded that Kim was a North Korean agent with a mission to blow up the airplane. However, some relatives of the victims - together with antigovernment civic leaders - raised suspicions over the investigation’s veracity, particularly after a historical committee was established in the National Intelligence Service under the Roh administration.

In concert with the committee - mostly composed of leftist civilians - three major television stations began to broadcast in unison a series of feature stories revisiting the terrorist bombing with the intention of exaggerating the doubts that the case was concocted by government hardliners ahead of the presidential election in December. The committee, however, ended its activities in 2007 without being able to directly question Kim because of her uncooperative attitude, while concluding that the case was not fabricated.

Kim revealed in 2008 that she had been pressured by the intelligence agency to deny she was a North Korean agent. But the agency testified to the National Assembly’s Information Committee that there had been no such pressure put on her. Kim appealed for a fact-finding reinvestigation of the case.

There seems to be no problem in that a truth-finding committee was established as relatives of the victims had raised suspicions on the bombing and that the committee reached the conclusion that the bombing was not a fake. But it constitutes a serious crime if the intelligence agency had pressured her to fabricate her story.

The nation must find out if the intelligence agency under the Roh administration really tried to pressure her.

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