Wreckage from the doomed Korean Air Flight 858 may have been found in the Andaman Sea near Myanmar. Reports have emerged of a South Korean television crew spotting a wing-shaped object and part of a fuselage on the seabed using 3D sonar.
On a fateful day in 1987…
Korean Air Flight 858 exploded mid-air when operating a scheduled passenger service between Baghdad and Seoul (via Abu Dhabi) on 29 November 1987. One hundred and fifteen passengers and crew died. A bomb had been planted in an overhead locker by North Korean agents.
Neither of the North Korean agents boarded the flight, but authorities swiftly determined who was responsible. As the net closed, one agent committed suicide using cyanide. The other was caught and detained.
The surviving agent, a female named Kim Hyon-hui, later confessed to the bombing. But North Korea has always denied responsibility. Other nations were not so forgiving. Relations between the two Korean states have never really recovered. The bombing saw the USA put North Korea on its State Sponsors of Terrorism list. North Korea has rarely been off the list or the USA’s radar ever since.
TV crew acted on a local tipoff
While it’s long been known what happened to Flight 858, the wreckage was never recovered.
Daego MBC TV has spent 12 months investigating and searching for the wreckage of Flight 858. The crew had received a tipoff that local fishermen in the Andaman Sea knew of a large and unnatural object on the seabed about 170 feet down.
The TV crew took a 3D sonar to the area. They spotted a 33-foot long wing-shaped object and a 90-foot long object that appeared to be a plane’s fuselage. There was further debris and machine parts in the vicinity.
If Daego MBC TV is correct, the discovery will solve one of aviation’s enduring mysteries and maybe bring some solace to families of those on board.
Questions still unanswered
What it doesn’t answer is why North Korea decided to bring down a passenger airline. The surviving agent, Kim Hyon-hui was put on trial in South Korea and sentenced to death. South Korea’s president later pardoned her, deeming the agent brainwashed.
In the three decades since the bombing, Kim Hyon-hui took up state-sponsored residence in South Korea where she now lives in their version of witness protection.
She has, over the years, been forthcoming about what she did, her regrets, and has stated who she believes was the mastermind. No surprise that Kim Hyon-hui pointed the finger at Kim Jong-il, the daddy of the present incumbent in Pyongyang.
Kim Hyon-hui has also said that Kim Jong-il was behind the 1983 Rangoon bombing – an attempt to assassinate South Korea’s then-President, Chun Doo-hwan.
If correct, it is merely a part of a pattern of North Korean state-sponsored criminality. It ranges from lower level criminality such as counterfeiting and drug-running through to murder and bringing down passenger aircraft.
Simple Flying has reached out to Korean Air for a comment on the possible discovery of Flight 858 wreckage. We’ll update you when they respond to our request.