SEOUL, South Korea -- President Roh Tae-woo granted a special pardon Thursday to a North Korean woman condemned to death for placing a time bomb on a Korean Air jetliner that disappeared over Southeast Asia late in 1987 with 115 people aboard.
Information Minister Choe Byung-yul said Kim Hyon-hui, 28, a confessed agent for communist North Korea, will not be executed despite a March 27 Supreme Court ruling upholding her death sentence.
Choe said Kim, having committed a terrorist attack on a civil aircraft causing a heavy loss of lives, deserved harsh punishment, but the government decided to let her live as a witness to North Korean atrocities.
The Justice Ministry recommended a presidential pardon for the woman on the grounds she confessed. Officials had predicted she would not be executed because of her potential as a witness against North Korea.
Choe said Kim, through intensive brainwashing in a closed society, was reduced to a human tool for North Korean President Kim Il-sung and his son, Kim Chong-il, who ordered the bombing.
'Though belatedly, she realized that she had been deceived by the North Korean communists, deeply repented her crime, confessed all details during court sessions and offered heartfelt apologies to the bereaved families of the victims,' Choe said.
'The government decided to grant the special pardon believing that it is in the national interest to embrace her in the bosom of this country as a vivid witness to the atrocities and aggressiveness of the North Korean communists.'
Kim, accompanied by an aged man, boarded a KAL Boeing 707 at Baghdad, Iraq, the night of Nov. 28, 1987. The pair got off the plane several hours later at Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, leaving behind a time bomb.
The airliner carrying 115 people vanished while flying to Bangkok, Thailand, en route to Seoul. The wreckage was never found, though some debris believed to be from the aircraft was picked from the sea off Burma.
Kim was brought to Seoul and tried. In court, she said she carried out the attack on orders from Kim Chong-il, who wanted to discourage communist-bloc and neutral nations from taking part in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul.
The Supreme Court approved her death sentence March 27 but she was not imprisoned. She has been under protective custody at an apartment where she has lived with a woman guard, official sources said.