South Korean Air Flight 7

Published: 1983
Play Audio Archive Story - UPI
President Ronald Reagan embraces singer Pearl Bailey on the commencement platform at Seton Hall University here 5/21/1983 as both received honorary degrees from the University.

Ed Karrens: 1983 was an especially tragic year for the people of South Korea. First, there was the downing of a commercial airliner. UPI's Tom Foty recalls the details of that shocking incident …

Tom Foty: "When South Korean Airline Flight 7 from New York to Seoul took off from Anchorage following a refueling stop there, it seemed like a routine event. Flight 7, of course, never reached its destination, and in the days and weeks that followed, U.S.-Soviet relations took a drastic turn for the worse.

"In the early-morning hours of that day, Flight 7 disappeared from radar screens in the North Pacific. It strayed into Soviet territory, apparently flew out, then strayed back in with a Soviet jetfighter on its tail. Secretary of State Shultz detailed what happened next … "

Secretary George P. Shultz: "'The Soviet pilot reported that he fired a missile, and the target was destroyed.'"

Tom Foty: "269 people died when Flight 7 was blown out of the sky. Among them more than 60 Americans, including Georgia Congressman Larry McDonald. It took the Soviets several days to admit that they destroyed the plane, and then they blamed the incident on the United States, saying the jumbo 747 jet was on a spy mission. Anger in the U.S. was strong from President Reagan on down; but the Soviets insisted that if their territory were violated again, they'd react the same way.

"Tom Foty, Washington".

Ed Karrens: While still reeling from the shock of the airliner disaster, South Koreans were hit with still another tragedy, this one in the form of a bombing attack against South Korean officials visiting Rangoon, Burma. The scene was a national cemetery where South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan was to have taken part in a wreath0-laying ceremony; but Chun was delayed in heavy traffic and was running a few minutes late. This may have saved his life. Other high-ranking South Korean officials were already at the Martyrs Mausoleum awaiting the President's arrival. Suddenly, an ear-splitting explosion tore through the building, transforming it into a smoking ruin. The blast, which was apparently intended for President Chun, killed 17 South Koreans, including many top members of the Government.

South Korean Officials blamed North Korea for the bombing, and when President Reagan visited South Korea he, too, said North Korea was responsible.


Ed Karrens: 1983 in Review will continue in just a moment.