A North Korean agent admitted on Friday she blew up a South Korean airliner with 115 people aboard to try to sabotage the Seoul Olympics, prosecutors said.
They said Kim Hyon-hui, 26, made the admission while being questioned about the explosion of a Korean Air Lines Boeing 707 near the Burmese coast in November 1987.All 115 passengers and crew were killed.
After more than seven hours of interrogation, a senior prosecutor told reporters Kim admitted planting bombs aboard the aircraft on the written orders of Kim Jong-il, son and heir-designate of North Korean President Kim Il-sung.
"She told us the aim of the mission was to spark security concerns and make it impossible for Seoul to host the Olympics," the prosecutor said.
Despite the tragedy and North Korean threats to organize alternative games for communist countries unless it was allowed to co-host the Olympics, a record 160 nations, including the Soviet Union and China, sent athletes to Seoul in September.
South Korea withheld legal action against the woman until after the Olympics as part of an effort to persuade the North to take part in the Games. Pyongyang, capital of North Korea, which denies involvement in the bombing, stayed away.
The questioning on Friday was the first by state prosecutors since Kim went on South Korean television last January and confessed to blowing up the plane.
She has been in South Korean custody since her extradition from Bahrain last December.
Prosecution sources said Kim, known at first as Mayumi, the name on the false Japanese passport she was carrying when arrested, will be tried in a few weeks.
The government had considered not prosecuting her because it regarded her as a "puppet" of the Communist leadership in Pyongyang and showed deep repentance.
Authorities decided to put her on trial to meet Seoul's commitments to international conventions on air piracy and for fear of angry reaction from the relatives of victims, the sources said.
They said that although Kim could be hanged if found guilty of mass murder, the government would probably pardon her after a trial and use her case as an example of North Korean belligerence.
The case has a precedent. One North Korean survivor of a bloody 1968 commando raid on Seoul's presidential residence renounced communism while in custody and was allowed to go free. He now lives quietly in South Korea.
Kim boarded the ill-fated Seoul-bound flight in Baghdad with a male companion and disembarked in Abu Dhabi.
The plane vanished a few hours later on the next leg of its flight. The pair went on to Bahrain where two days later they swallowed cyanide capsules to escape questioning by Japanese and South Korean investigators. The man died but Kim survived.
By her own admission, Kim trained for seven years, learning foreign languages, martial art and sabotage. Security officials said she was selected as a spy by the North because of her beauty and language skills.