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Digital Archive International History Declassified


Kim Hyeon-hui

James E. Hoare

Kim Hyeon-hui was responsible for the KAL 858 bombing, which she said had been ordered by Kim Jong Il to disrupt the 1988 Olympics.


KIM HYEON-HUI. Kim Hyeon-hui and Kim Seong-iI were arrested in November 1987 at Bahrain airport, following the Andaman Sea bombing that destroyed Korean Air flight 858. Both were Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) citizens and unrelated, although they were traveling on Japanese passports as father and daughter. Kim Seong-iI committed suicide, but Kim Hyeon-hui was taken alive. She first claimed to be a Japanese named Hachiya Mayumi, but later confessed that she was from the DPRK. She also admitted that she and her companion had been on a mission to destroy the flight in order to disrupt the 1988 Olympic Games, due to be held in Seoul, the capital of the Republic of Korea (ROK). She also claimed that Kim Jong Il, son of the DPRK leader Kim Il Sung, was behind the attack. The Bahraini authorities handed her over to the ROK, where she was tried and sentenced to death. While awaiting execution, however, she became a Christian, expressing repentance for her actions. The ROK government later pardoned her. She wrote an autobiography, The Tears of My Soul, published in 1993. In 1997, she married an officer from the ROK National Intelligence Service. In her book, she said she was born in Gaeseong in 1962, lived abroad while her father was on a diplomatic posting, and had been recruited as an agent after university. She also claimed that a Japanese woman had coached her in the DPRK, thus providing the first substantive evidence of Japanese abductees. In 2004, relatives of some of those killed in 1987 disputed Kim’s story and launched an unsuccessful demand for a government inquiry. They claimed that the destruction of the aircraft had been part of a plot by then President Chun Doo-hwan to win support for Roh Tae-woo in the 1987 presidential election campaign.

All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publisher. (Historical Dictionary of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, by James E. Hoare, published by RLPG Books, appears by permission of the author and publisher).