Four soon-to-be-graduated students at the Chaehyun Military Academy in North Pyongan Province’s Taechon County died in a crash involving a worn-out aircraft during the Eighth Party Congress in January, Daily NK has learned.
A military source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK yesterday that the students had gone to Taechon Air Base in early January to practice high-altitude drops as part of training to become commanders of light infantry divisions.
The students boarded an AN-2 aircraft and all the pre-flight checkups were handled by staff at the Taechon Air Base.
The AN-2, however, began spewing smoke as soon as it took off, and spiraled out of control until crashing and then exploding on a nearby mountain. All four students died immediately in the crash, along with the pilot.
While the incident was originally going to be reported to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un through the Ministry of Defense, officials in the ministry decided not to report the incident because of the ongoing Eighth Party Congress.
The incident was later reported to both the Central Committee and the North Korean leader. Kim reportedly sent his condolences, saying “losing valuable future leaders of infantry divisions is a major blow to our Party and the our revolutionary armed forces.”
The head of the defense ministry’s education department, who allegedly prevented the incident report from going to Kim Jong Un, was removed from his position. However, North Korean authorities have not conducted an investigation into the incident itself, according to the source.
“That’s because the AN-2 is not considered a weapon that can be used to attack South Korea,” the source said, adding, “If a combat aircraft in the air force had been involved, the air force along with the Taechon Military Academy would have faced trouble.”
The families of the four students who died in the incident were sent a message saying their loved ones had “died during training,” along with a document stating the students had “died in battle.”
The family of the AN-2 pilot was also given a document stating he had become a “patriotic martyr,” the source said.