The Bombing of KAL Flight 858

A North Korean plot to sabotage the Olympics and possibly derail a crucial South Korean election hinged on a pair of very unusual spies. When one of the bombers survived after swallowing a cyanide capsule, she told investigators her whole world was a lie.

Content note: This episode concerns a terrorist attack, a plane crash, mass murder, and a death by poisoning. It also contains discussions of police brutality and torture.

Featured image: Kim Hyon-hui, who also went by the names Ok Hwa and Mayumi Hachiya. This picture was taken in 2010. (Image source)

Kim Hyon-hui is interviewed in the leadup to the 2018 Olympics. She was outspoken about her suspicion that North Korea’s friendly attitude and willingness to discuss nuclear disarmament in the lead-up to the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics were probably lies. She was correct. North Korea continued to expand its stockpile of nuclear weapons in the years after 2018.

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Korean Air Lines Boeing 707-338C. I believe this may be a different plane than HL7406, the one destroyed in the bombing, but it has the same livery. (Image source)

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Statues of Kim Il Sung (left) and Kim Jong Il (right) in Pyongyang. (Image source)

Footage of propaganda created by the North Korean government shortly after Kim Jong Il was succeeded by his son Kim Jong Un.

More footage of North Korean propaganda and brief interviews with people of varying ages who’ve grown up consuming that propaganda. This report is from 2017 and has a hopeful tone about the possibility of North Korea giving up its nuclear program.

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A memorial to the victims of the bombing at Yangjae Citizens’ Forest. (Image source)


4 thoughts on “The Bombing of KAL Flight 858”

  1. Thx for the podcast. I don’t think the Soviet Union doesn’t shoot down planes anymore joke works with the NeoNazi Russian successor state doing quite a lot of shooting down of say Dutch people and failed mutineers.

  2. Had an interesting conversation with my partner (south Korean national) after listening to this episode. Her position matched up closely with you analysis, the guilty party was primarily the North Korean state and not Kim Hyon-hui. She said they preferred to focus their anger on the planners. She also thinks she ended up marrying the police officer who interrogated her (which is interesting if true)

  3. Kim Jong Il would have head of state immunity under international customary law. Only an international tribunal, like the ICC or Nuremberg IMT, would have the power to arrest and try him.

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