Destruction of KAL858 by North Korea Agents 1987

[ 1987 ]

On 29 November 1987, Korean Airlines flight 858, en route from Europe to Korea via the Middle East, exploded over the Indian Ocean, killing all 115 people on board. Two passengers had left the flight at its last stop, Abu Dhabi on the Persian Gulf. They were stopped by security guards, and both immediately swallowed cyanide. The man, Kim Sung Il, aged 70, died; the woman, Kim Hyon Hui, aged 26, survived.

She was extradited to South Korea, and there confessed. The two were North Korean intelligence agents, and had been given orders "personally written" by Kim Chong Il, President Kim Il Sung's son. The woman had been trained to behave and look Japanese, and the two had left a bottle of liquid explosive (disguised as liquor) and a detonator in a radio in the overhead rack on the aircraft. She said that the attack had been designed to destabilze South Korea during its presidential election campaign, and to increase international nervousness about the forthcoming Olympic Games there. She told a press conference in January 1988 that she had since changed her allegiance, after watching South Korean television, and being driven around Seoul by her interrogators.


In the airliner bombing, North Korea broke from its pattern of targeting South Korean government officials, in particular the president, and targeted ordinary citizens.

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