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Graphic images of N. Korean 1983 bombing published
Published on:Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 12:01
A Seoul newspaper on Thursday published graphic, never-before-seen pictures of the bloody aftermath of North Korea's 1983 bid to assassinate South Korean president Chun Doo-Hwan with a bomb attack in Myanmar.
The images were taken by official government photographer Kim Sang-Yeong, who had kept them private at the personal request of then-president Chun to avoid upsetting the relatives of the victims.
Chun survived the October 9 bombing of the Aung San Martyrs' Mausoleum in Yangon, which killed 21 people including three senior politicians in his presidential entourage.
The main photo, published on the front page of the Chosun Ilbo, showed mangled bodies, bleeding from shrapnel wounds and lying in the debris of the collapsed mausoleum, with South Korean embassy staff scrambling to find survivors.
Chun's life was spared thanks to traffic congestion. He was only minutes away from the mausoleum when the bomb, concealed in the roof, went off just above the gathered presidential entourage.
Chosun Ilbo said other pictures taken by Kim, showing burning bodies and bloodied victims screaming for help, had still been deemed too graphic to print.
"We were lined up, waiting for the president's arrival," Kim told the daily.
"Then there was an ear-splitting thump and I passed out. When I came back to my senses, there was just blood, shouting and the stench of burning flesh and rubble.
"There were ministers dying on the ground. I thought, 'Oh, God, how could this happen?' and then started clicking away with my camera," he said.
After handing his camera to a security guard, Kim lost consciousness again and the next time he woke he was in a hospital bed.
Among the dead were foreign minister Lee Beom-Seok, as well as the deputy prime minister and industry minister.
Another 14 Korean presidential advisers, journalists, and security officials were killed, along with four Burmese nationals.
The Chosun Ilbo has been running a campaign to build a monument to the victims of the bombing, and Kim said he had handed the photos to the newspaper to help the fund-raising efforts.
The front-page photo, at Kim's request, was printed in black-and-white, and the upturned face of one of the dead victims was censored.
Another colour photo showed Myanmar security officials tending to a blood-spattered Korean journalist who survived.
In their investigation into the bombing, Myanmar police identified three North Korean agents who had come aboard a ship to Yangon and received explosives in the North Korean embassy.
Two days after the bombing, two of the agents were arrested and a third managed to kill three soldiers before being cornered and shot dead.
One of the arrested was later executed, while the other received a life sentence after confessing that he had carried out the attack under orders from Pyongyang.