Chun regime sought political gains from terror: diplomatic documents

By Yonhap
  • Published : Mar 31, 2019 - 13:10
  • Updated : Mar 31, 2019 - 13:17

The Chun Doo-hwan government apparently tried, in 1987, to use the Korean Air Flight 858 bombing as political means ahead of a presidential election, declassified diplomatic documents showed Sunday.

The released files showed the government attempted to get Kim Hyon-hui, a North Korean agent held responsible for the terrorist attack, extradited to South Korea before an election slated for Dec. 16. Kim was arrested in Bahrain following the midair bombing on Nov. 29 that killed 115 people.

Kim Hyon-hui (Yonhap)

The North Korea issue is a longstanding source of political rivalry in South Korea. Conservative political parties are accused of having sought at times to use tensions with North Korea to solidify their support base, especially ahead of elections.

The Chun regime dispatched Deputy Foreign Minister Park Soo-gil to Bahrain to discuss the matter. In a diplomatic cable written after meeting with related officials, Park noted there should be a notification from Bahrain by Dec. 12 for Kim to arrive in South Korea “no later than” Dec. 15, the eve of the presidential polls.

Kim was finally brought to South Korea on Dec. 15, with her arrival at a local airport broadcast live. The ruling party won at the polls the next day.

Also included in the diplomatic dossier, newly declassified, with more than 250,000 pages, is how and why the International Olympic Committee reached out to North Korea prior to the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

During his trip to South Korea in September 1984, IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch stressed the need to propose the joint hosting of the sports event with North Korea.

In talks with a senior South Korean official, Samaranch said that many socialist nations hoped to participate in the Seoul Olympics, but North Korea was an obstacle.

He added they needed a pretext for joining the games without being affected by Pyongyang and proposing it play host to some of them.

The IOC chief said that Pyongyang would not accept the offer.

The North turned down the proposal and a number of socialist countries took part in the Olympics.

The 30-year-old diplomatic documents have been made public at the Foreign Ministry’s diplomatic archives. (Yonhap)