Template:Lead too short Template:Korean name Template:Infobox Korean name Kim Hyun-Hui (Chosŏn'gŭl: 김현희, Hanja: 金賢姬; born January 27, 1962), also known as Ok Hwa, is a former North Korean agent, responsible for the Korean Air Flight 858 bombing in 1987, which killed 115 people.[1]

Biography[edit | edit source]

Early life[edit | edit source]

Kim Hyun-Hui was born in Kaesong, North Korea. Her father was a career diplomat and as a result, the family lived in Cuba for some time. Kim excelled as a student and in after-school activities.

Kim was originally trained as an actress, and starred in North Korea's first Technicolor film, playing a girl whose family fled to North Korea to escape poverty in South Korea, as North Koreans are taught that South Koreans live in extreme poverty. In 1972, due to her family connections, she was selected to present flowers to the senior South Korean delegate at the North-South talks in Pyongyang. After graduating from high school, she enrolled in the Pyongyang Foreign Language College, where she studied Japanese. However, she had barely begun her studies when she was recruited for espionage work.

Espionage training[edit | edit source]

Soon after joining the North Korean spy agency, Kim was given a new name, Ok Hwa and sent to live in a compound outside of Pyongyang. There, Kim spent seven years learning tradecraft. Her training included martial arts, physical fitness, and three years of Japanese.[citation needed] Kim's Japanese instructor was Yaeko Taguchi, one of many Japanese kidnapped by North Korea. Later, Kim testified that Taguchi was known to her as Lee Eun-hye (李恩惠, 리은혜).[2][3] [4] Additionally, students at this facility were shown propaganda films. At the end of her training, Kim was rigorously tested. Part of her final exam required her to infiltrate and steal documents from a mock embassy.

Kim spent time in China studying Chinese and was allowed to travel through Europe with an older man, known to her as Kim Seung Il (金勝一). This was part of her extensive preparation to complete a mission that was of great importance to the ruling Kim family. Her younger brother had died and her sister, who had married, was now a widow.[citation needed] The two lived in Macau for a time, where they used Zokwang Trading as a base of operations.[5]

Korean Air Flight 858[edit | edit source]

In 1987, Kim was given an assignment to blow up KAL 858. She was told that the order came directly from the "Dear Leader himself, Kim Jong-Il. Handwritten, that is..." She was told that if she was successful, she would be able to return and live with her family and would not have to work as an agent afterward. She was once again paired with Kim Seung Il who was recovering from an operation to his stomach.

She was traveling with a fake Japanese passport under the name of Template:Nihongo along with Kim Seung Il, who posed as her father and used the name Template:Nihongo. The two traveled through Europe and eventually met other North Korean agents in Budapest who provided them with the materials to complete their mission. Once they had left the bomb behind (hidden in a radio device) in a luggage rack of KAL 858, Kim Hyon Hui and Kim Seung Il disembarked in Abu Dhabi and traveled to Bahrain. The two terrorists were apprehended in Bahrain after investigators discovered that their passports were fake. Kim Seung Il bit a cyanide pill that was hidden in a cigarette and died. Kim Hyun Hui unsuccessfully attempted to do the same, but a Bahraini policewoman snatched the cigarette out of her mouth just as she started to ingest the poison.[6] She was hospitalized and then later interrogated.

At first, she insisted that her name was Pai Chui Hui, an orphan from Northern China who had met an elderly Japanese man with whom she was traveling. She denied any sexual involvement with her partner Kim Seung Il. However, her accent also did not sound like she came from northern China. After Bahrain was convinced she was actually a North Korean, she was flown to Seoul under heavy guard.[7]

According to testimony at a United Nations Security Council meeting, Kim was taken on several occasions to see the prosperity of Seoul outside of her prison cell. The prison authorities also showed her TV shows and news reports showing the affluent lifestyle on South Korea. She had been taught that the South was a corruption-riddled fief of the United States, and poverty was widespread.[7] She'd also been told that if she were ever captured, she'd be subject to hideous torture. However, her captors treated her with great sympathy.

For eight days, Kim insisted that she was a Chinese native living in Japan. However, after realizing that all she'd been taught about South Korea was a lie, she broke down, admitted that she was in fact North Korean and confessed the details of her role in the bombing of Flight 858, as well as Kim Jong-il's personal involvement in the scheme.

Aftermath[edit | edit source]

In 1990, her life was turned into a movie Mayumi (1990) which was directed by Shin Sang-ok who was also a kidnapped victim like her teacher.[8]

For her role in the bombing of KAL 858, Kim Hyun Hui was sentenced to death in March 1989. However, South Korean president Roh Tae-woo pardoned her, taking the view Kim was merely a brainwashed victim of the real culprit, the North Korean government. She later wrote an autobiography entitled The Tears of My Soul and donated the proceeds to the families of the victims of Flight 858.

In an interview with Washington Post correspondent Don Oberdorfer, Kim said that she'd been led to believe the bombing was necessary to aid the cause of reuniting the peninsula. However, the sight of Seoul's prosperity made her realize she'd "committed the crime of killing compatriots."

Publishers Weekly, in its 1992 review of the book Shoot the Women First by Eileen MacDonald, described Kim as "robot-like" and "wholly submissive to male authority".[9]

Kim Hyun Hui lives in an undisclosed location and remains under constant protection for fear of reprisals, from either victims' families or the North Korean government which has branded her a traitor. She has become a devout born-again Christian.[citation needed]

In December 1997, Kim married a former South Korean intelligence agent who also served as her bodyguard, with whom she had a daughter.[10]

In March 2009, when meeting family members of Yaeko Taguchi, she mentioned that Taguchi may still be alive, and in connection with this she visited Japan in July 2010. After the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, she donated 1 million yen (S$15,600) to the victims, out of gratitude for the preferential treatment she had received in Japan during her previous visit.[11]

She was also featured by a Japanese Television Documentary that dramatized her life and revealed how Yaeko used to sing lullabies to her children, from whom she had been separated after being abducted.[12]

References[edit | edit source]

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

ar:كيم هيون هوي cs:Kim Hjon-hi es:Kim Hyon Hui fr:Kim Hyon-hui ko:김현희 ja:金賢姫 ro:Kim Hyon Hui fi:Kim Hyon-hui zh:金賢姬

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