An anonymous defector who was working on North Korean espionage operations at the time of the Korean Air Flight 858 bombing in 1987 has revealed to Daily NK, “Everyone, including me, who worked for the espionage department knew immediately that we had committed the terrorist attack, and from that time on we called it ‘Our Agent Mayumi Incident’.”
North Korean agent Kim Hyun Hee carried out the operation using a passport bearing the assumed Japanese name Hachiya Mayumi. Her partner in the attack, Kim Sung Il, died while facing capture in Bahrain shortly after Flight 858 was destroyed over the Andaman Sea on November 29th.
After reading an article published by Daily NK two days ago, ‘KAL Bomber Kim Hyun Hui’s family residing in Chongjin’, the anonymous defector contacted Daily NK, explaining, “At the espionage organ where I worked, we all knew that the bombing incident was done by North Korea within a few days of it happening. The authorities kept it confidential, but I knew from the official denial the typical response of the North Korean authorities in denying their terrorist acts”.
The defector continued, “From time to time cadres would visit from Pyongyang to give lectures to espionage agents and they sometimes remarked that such terrorists acts were done by us. Even the general population over 40 years of age know about the KAL bombing; however, North Korea made statements denying the existence of Kim Hyun Hee, and this had some bad side-effects”.
Kim Hyun Hee, after being caught, began to disclose details of her life in North Korea, including that “I gave a bouquet to Kim Il Sung when I was at Keumsung Middle School,” and that she had been dispatched by Pyongyang. North Korea denied everything, claiming things such as, “No graduates of Keumsung Middle School gave bouquets (to Kim Il Sung).”
However, hundreds of witnesses had seen the bouquets being given, so when North Korea claimed that no such event occurred, many people knew that their country was lying.
As the name ‘Kim Hyun Hee’ became more and more well known among the students and faculty of Pyongyang Foreign Language School, where she had been a student, rumors spread like wildfire that “Kim Hyun Hee, who was picked to be an agent, has something to do with this event.”
The anonymous defector said that the rumors were proved correct when Kim Hyun Hee’s younger brother, who was then attending the same school, was taken under surveillance. Rumors seemed to spread particularly quickly mostly because a lot of the parents of students at the school were members of the Central Party, diplomats and others who had easier access to news outside of North Korea.
The anonymous defector claims that the residents believed it was an attempt by North Korea to “disrupt the 1988 Seoul Olympics”.
After the KAL 858 bombing, Kim’s entire family was forcibly moved from Pyongyang to Chongjin in North Hamkyung Province, where they have lived under strict surveillance for over 25 years.
Kim’s parents and brother were instructed never to speak of her again, and as a result neighbors in Chongjin did not know of their family relations. The anonymous defector who conveyed the information that Kim’s family is residing in Chongjin said, “Even her brother’s wife seemed like she had no idea that her husband was Kim Hyun Hee’s brother, even though they had lived together for 16 years.”
North Korea has never officially admitted to the terrorist attack, although Ri Gun, the Director General of the American Affairs Bureau in the North Korean Foreign Ministry, is alleged to have accidentally confessed to it during a session of the Six-Party Talks in around 2005-6.