The 1980s


Firearm instruction in a North Korean school in the late 80s

The Rangoon Bombing 1983


video of the actual bombing

In Sept 1983 South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan visited Myanmar (Burma) with many South Korean officials. Chun was planned to lay a wreath at the Martyr's Mausoleum and North Korean army major Zin Mo had planted a powerful bomb at the spot two days earlier. However, Zin detonated the bomb too early, missing Chun ( who escaped injury) but killing four members of the Korean cabinet,two senior presidential advisors and the South Korean ambassador to Burma.In total 17 South Koreans and four Burmese were killed and 46 were injured.


Before the bombing, reclusive Burma and reclusive North Korea had been the best of friends,each following its own distinctive form of socialism .Burma expelled all North Korea diplomats and broke diplomatic relations with North Korea.Chinese officials refused to meet or talk with North Korean officials for months afterward.Japan had no diplomatic relations with North Korea imposed travel restrictions.America kept a naval battle group in Korean waters after naval exercises were finished. The Burmese police identified three suspects, a North Korean army major and two captains.One was shot to death two days after the bombing; suspect Kang Min-chul and the other remaining suspect tried to commit suicide by hand-grenade that same day, but survived, although Kang lost an arm. Kang confessed his mission and links to North Korea, an action by which he was able to avoid a death sentence and instead received life imprisonment. His colleague was executed by hanging. North Korea denied any links to Kang, who was sent to the infamous prison at Insein, north of Yangon.Kang died of liver cancer on May 18,2008.


The bombing caused outrage in South Korea. The North Koreans expected mass demonstrations if Chun were killed and some speculate commando raids were planned . The Korean minister of defense proposed bombing North Korea in retaliation, but Chun rejected this proposal and no retaliatory action was taken .


North Korean aid to the South, Talks resume

In 1984 North Korea announced it would send about 7,000 tons of rice,cement and other supplies to flood victims in the South, signaling a change with the North's reunification policy. Flooding had killed 190 and left 200,000 homeless. To everyone surprise, Chun accepted this offer.North Korea trucks entered the South, the first to do so since the war. the South proposed resuming the stalled Red Cross talks and start talks on economic exchange., leading to many meetings, leading to 35 South Koreans being allowed to visit family in the North and about the same number from the North to do likewise in the South.

Reaction to the 1988 Olympics and the KAL 858 Bombing



Kim Hyon Hee

 Kim Hyon-Hui :: Korean Air Flight 858


1988 Olympics were an opportunity for South Korea to show it was no longer a poor war ravaged country and hoped it would give it the international prestige boost that the 1964 Olympics gave Japan. North Korea was furious that it had been shut out of hosting events and vowed to disrupt the games .On Oct 7,1987, two espionage agents planted a bomb on Korean Air flight 858, killing all 115 people on board. On of the agents, Kim Seung Il, killed himself with a poison pill. The other 25 year old female Kim Hyon Hee, tried to do the same but survived and was brought to South Korea. She was sentenced to death, but given a presidential pardon by Roh Tae Woo. She later wrote her autobiography entitled The Tears of My Soul and donated the proceeds to the families of the victims of Flight 858. She later converted to Christianity.The attack triggered new economic and political sanctions from the US and placed North Korea on the list of states supporting terrorism. Hyun Hee was taught Japanese by the kidnapped Japanese citizen Yaeko Taguchi, who was abducted in June, 1978 . Video .


Tears of My Soul

Hyun Hee reveals how she was recruited and

trained, and provides details of the bombing

Part of the massive 40th anniversary celebration in 1989

North Korean middle school in the 1980s



 Rise of military,

The Blue House raid,

USS Pueblo

Economic Downturn

Sino-Soviet Split

 The 1970s


 1988 to the collapse

of the USSR

in 1991