A confessed North Korean agent wept Tuesday as a court sentenced her to death for the 1987 bombing of a South Korean airliner in which 115 people were killed.
Officials said they expect 27-year-old Kim Hyon Hui to be pardoned.Kim shook with grief as Judge Chung Sang-hwak pronounced her guilty of violating national security and aviation laws and sentenced her to die by hanging.
Relatives of the victims sat quietly as Chung said there was no doubt that Kim was guilty of planting a bomb aboard a Korea Air Boeing 707 that disappeared on Nov. 29, 1987 over the Andaman Sea as it approached the Burmese coast. The plane was en route to Seoul from Baghdad, Iraq.
Kim confessed on South Korean television in January 1988 that she planted the bomb as part of a plot by senior leaders of communist North Korea to disrupt the Olympic Games, held successfully in Seoul last summer.
She said at a hearing on April 4 that she wanted to die to atone for the deaths.
She has a week to appeal the sentence, but defense lawyers said no decision had been made on the matter.
South Korean officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Kim was expected to be pardoned on grounds she was duped by communist North Korea and has repented.
North Korea has denied it had anything to do with the plane bombing and has claimed it was engineered by South Korea to embarrass the north.
Judge Chung, who headed the three-judge panel hearing the case, said the destruction of the plane underlined the threat the north poses to South Korea's freedom and survival.
"We have an enemy which always tries to destroy our liberal democratic system. We must face that reality with resolute determination," he said in a 13-minute statement.