December 14, 1969. North Korea’s official news agency said early Saturday that the Korean commercial airliner flown into North Korea Thursday was taken there by its two pilots who elected to defect. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) identified the two pilots as Yu Byong-ha and Choe Sok-man.
A top ROK police official, however, said he believed North Korean agents were responsible for the hijacking. Two passengers on the hijacked Korean Airlines plane are now suspected by police of being communist agents.
Investigation of 44 of the 46 passengers revealed no contradictory information, police said, but facts about Han Chang-gi and Paek In-yong wee impossible to uncover.
The police investigation team at Kangnung Friday decided to distribute 30,000 photographs of Han, the suspected mastermind of the hijacking.
The investigation of Han came after a KAL employee, a Miss Kim, said a man using the name Han Chang-gi came to the Sokcho branch office Monday morning and purchased a ticket for Wednesday’s flight to Seoul. Seokcho is about 38 miles north of Kangnung.
When Han missed Wednesday’s flight, Miss Kim tried to call him at the inn where he had said he was staying. But no one there had heard of the name. On Wednesday afternoon, however, Han came into the office and asked to change his ticket for Thursday’s flight.
Meanwhile, key government and military officials met Friday to plan moves to seek the release of the South Koreans and the aircraft. A government source said the International Red Cross and the Korean Military Armistice Commission will be asked to approach North Korea.
The International Red Cross here said it made contact with the Red Cross office in the North Friday but had received no information concerning the fate of the 46 passengers or four crew members aboard the Japanese-built YS-11 turboprop airliner.
The United States Command (UCN), however, had no comment on whether it will call a meeting of the Armistice Commission to ask for the return of the plane, its crew, and passengers.
The North Korean announcement came 30 hours after the plane had crossed the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
ROK Airforce Chief of Staff General Kim Sung-yong told the Korean National Assembly that air force radar had picked up the plane at 12:49 Thursday afternoon, 20 minutes after takeoff from Kangnung. ROK jet fighters were in the air by 12:54, he said, when the plane suddenly swerved north and did not respond to ground radio warnings. The plane, Kim said, had already crossed the DMZ by the time the jets were in the area.
Meanwhile, ROK officials have already put increased security measures into effect to protect future domestic flights. ROK officials said they are also considering putting armed policemen on each flight and authorizing pilots to carry pistols.
In Seoul, and possibly throughout the nation, demonstrations are being planned to protest the hijacking.
Foreign Minister Choi Kyu-hah told a National Assembly committee that the plane probably landed at Sundak, five miles north of the port city of Wonsan where the USS Pueblo was taken after its seizure Jan. 23, 1968.
The plane was carrying about 1,000 pounds of cargo, along with the passengers, but airline officials did not say whether any diplomatic pouches or other important papers were aboard.
Cho Joong-hoon, president Korean Airlines, said that just before takeoff a man dressed an army general’s uniform had argued with airline officials when he was refused VIP treatment.
Shortly after the hijacking was reported, a government spokesperson charged that North Korea was responsible and that “the incident served to disclose to the entire world that the North Korean Communists are a group of pirates who engage in barbarous acts.”
The number of passengers aboard the hijacked plane was first announced at 47 but was reduced by one when it was discovered that an American, Duane R. Kinas, failed to make the flight.
Thank you to the excellent ROK Drop blog for the scan of the article.