ICAS Special Contribution

No. 2000-0315-RSS

North Korea:
Chronology of Provocations,
1950 - 2000

Rinn S. Shinn

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422

Tel : (610) 277-9989; (610) 277-0149
Fax: (610) 277-3992
Email: icas@icasinc.org

Biography of Rinn S. Shinn


[Editor's note: We gratefully acknowledge the special contribution with written permission to ICAS, of this document by Rinn S. Shinn: sjk]


North Korea: Chronology of Provocations,

1950 - 2000

Updated March 15, 2000

Rinn S. Shinn
Foreign Affairs Analyst
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Congressional Research Service
U. S. Library of Congress


This report provides a selective chronology of reported instances of North Korean provocations against South Korea, the United States, and Japan since 1950. It will be updated periodically. For more information on North Korea from the Congressional Research Service, see the Guide to CRS Products under "East Asia."

North Korea: Chronology of Provocations, 1950 -2000


This chronology provides information on selective instances of North Korean provocations between June 1950 and March 2000. The most intense phase of the provocations was in the latter half of the 1960s, when North Korea staged a series of limited armed actions against South Korean and U.S. security interests. Infiltration of armed agents into South Korea was the most frequently mentioned type of provocations, followed by kidnapping and terrorism (actual and threatened). From 1954 to 1992, North Korea is reported to have infiltrated a total of 3,693 armed agents into South Korea, with 1967 and 1968 accounting for 20 percent of the total. Instances of terrorism were far fewer in number but, nonetheless, they seemed to have had a continuing negative impact on relations between the two Koreas. Not counting North Korea's invasion of South Korea in what has come to be known as the "forgotten" Korean War (1950-1953), North Korea's major terrorist involvement includes: an attempted assassination of President Park Chung Hee in 1968; a 1983 attempt to kill President Chun Doo Hwan in a bombing incident in Rangoon, Burma; and a mid-air sabotage bombing of a South Korean Boeing 707 passenger plane in 1987. Provocations have continued intermittently in recent years through March 2000, in the form of armed incursions, kidnappings, and occasional threats to turn the South Korean capital of Seoul into "a sea of fires."


North Korean provocations remain an issue for congressional concern because of implications not only for U.S. and South Korean security interests on the Korean Peninsula, but also for the U.S. sanctions on North Korea in force since 1950. Currently, an issue of particular concern to Congress is whether North Korea should be considered a state with involvement in terrorist activities. In this regard, North Korea reportedly is pressing the United States to remove North Korea from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism-as a condition for a possible high-level North Korean visit to Washington for official talks, perhaps in April 2000.(1) On this issue, State Department spokesman James Rubin was quoted as saying on February 10, 2000, "If North Korea and the United States resume our dialogue on counter-terrorism and they were to take the additional steps that we think are necessary, they are a country that could be removed from the list."(2) At the same time, he emphasized the importance of having to have North Korean assurances that "there is not going to be the state sponsorship of terrorist acts on a repeated basis and evidence or steps that we consider sufficient to justify their lack of linkages to such [terrorist] groups." In a similar vein, Michael Sheehan, the State Department's counter-terrorism coordinator, was reported to have told an audience at the Brookings Institution that he wanted to see some changes in this year's list due out at the end of April 2000, but declined to offer details.(3)

This selective chronology provides information on reported instances of North Korean provocations against South Korea, the United States, and Japan between June 1950 and March 2000.(4) The term "provocation" is defined to include: armed invasion, border violations, infiltration of armed saboteurs and spies, hijacking, kidnapping, and terrorism (including assassination, bombing, threat/intimidation against media personnel and institutions), and incitement aimed at the overthrow of the South Korean government. Reports of North Korean involvement in drug trafficking and "political and other extrajudicial killing" are outside the purview of this report.(5) Throughout the period of this chronology, North Korea always issued denials, blaming South Korea for fabricating the alleged provocations. In meetings with U.S. officials, North Koreans have urged the United States to remove Pyongyang from the U.S. list of countries supporting terrorism.(6) In March 2000, North Korea characterized the U.S. designation of the North as a "sponsor of terrorism"as "an unbearable mockery and insult to the DPRK which opposes terrorism and respects human rights."(7) In April 1993, Pyongyang had condemned all forms of terrorism including "the encouragement and support of terrorism." A similar statement was issued earlier in 1983 (see footnote number 14 below) and in February 1996, in August 1998, and in February 2000.(8)

The sources used for this chronology include: South Korean newspapers (Choson Ilbo, Chung'ang Ilbo (aka JoongAng Ilbo), Han'guk Ilbo, Han'gyore Sinmun, Korea Herald, Korea Times, and Dong-A Ilbo) and Yonhap News Service; the North Korean ruling party's organ (Nodong Sinmun); [North] Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) wire service reports; and Japanese newspapers (Asahi Shimbun, Mainichi Shimbun, Sankei Shimbun, and Yomiuri Shimbun) and Kyodo News Service; U.S. dailies such as the Washington Post, New York Times, Washington Times, Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times; Foreign Broadcast Information Service daily reports; and Associated Press and Reuters wire service reports. CRS has not attempted to verify independently any of these media reports. This report will be updated as warranted.

North Korea: Chronology of Provocations,

1950 - 2000

(9) The Korean War, which ended in July 1953 with an armistice, accounted for about 3.8 million casualties. The United States suffered 33,652 battle deaths and 103,284 wounded, in addition to 8,177 remaining unaccounted for. South Korean casualties included 58,127 dead and 175,743 wounded. The estimated losses of North Korea and China were 523,000 and 945,000, respectively. In addition, the two Koreas each suffered estimated casualties of one million civilians.(10)
02/1958--North Korean agents hijacked a South Korean airliner to Pyongyang that had been en route from Pusan to Seoul; 1 American pilot, 1 American passenger, 2 West German passengers, and 24 other passengers were released in early March, but 8 other passengers remained in the North.
04/1965--Two North Korean MiG jet fighters "attacked and damaged" a U.S. RB-47 reconnaissance plane over the Sea of Japan, about 50 miles east of the nearest North Korean coast.
01/1968--A 31-member commando team, disguised as South Korean soldiers and civilians, infiltrated within striking distance of President Park Chung Hee's office/residence complex (The Blue House) before they were intercepted by South Korean police; 29 commandos were killed and one committed suicide; one who was captured revealed that their mission was to kill President Park and other senior government officials. Two South Korean policemen and five civilians were killed by North Korean infiltrators.(11)
01/1968--Two days after the commando attempt on President Park, North Korea seized the U.S. intelligence ship Pueblo with a crew of 83 officers and men off Wonsan in international waters outside the 12-mile limit claimed by North Korea; the crew was finally released in December 1968, but not the vessel.
10/1968--One hundred and thirty sea-borne commandos infiltrated the Ulchin and Samchok areas on the eastern coast of South Korea; 110 were killed, 7 were captured, and 13 fled.(12)
03/1969--Six North Korean infiltrators killed a South Korean policeman on guard duty in an eastern coastal area near Chumunjin, Kangwon province.
04/1969--North Korean MiG jet fighters shot down an unarmed U.S. EC-121 reconnaissance plane over the Sea of Japan, about 90 miles off the North Korean coast, resulting in the loss of 31 lives.(13)
06/1969--North Korean agents infiltrated Huksan Island off the west coast; 15 were shot dead.
07/1969--North Korea unveiled the formal establishment of a United Revolutionary Party (aka: the Party for Unification and Revolution) as "an underground revolutionary organization of South Korea." The aim of the organization was to overthrow the South Korean government and replace it with a pro-North Korean, "democratic regime."(14)
10/1969--Four U.S. soldiers were ambushed and killed by North Korean intruders near the southern boundary of the DMZ.
12/1969--North Korean agents hijacked a South Korean airliner YS-11 to Wonsan en route from Kangnung to Seoul with 51 persons aboard; in February 1970. 39 of the crew and passengers were released. (As of 1998, the remaining 12 were still detained in North Korea, along with some 450 other South Koreans abducted since 1955, according to the South Korean government; In March 1999, South Korea's National Intelligence Service disclosed the names of 454 South Koreans still being detained in the North; also disclosed was the identification of 407 South Korean prisoners of war in the North. Of that number, 231 POWs were reported to be still alive in North Korea).(15)
03/1970--North Korea provided sanctuary to 9 members of a Japanese radical left-wing "Red Army" group who had hijacked a Japanese Boeing 707 airliner to Pyongyang. As of early March 2000, North Korea continued to provide shelter to some members of the radical group.(16)
04/1970--Three North Korean infiltrators were shot to death at Kumchon, Kyonggido, south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas. Five South Korean soldiers were wounded during the encounter.
06/1970--North Korean patrol boats seized a South Korean broadcast vessel with 20 crew on board off the west coast near the military demarcation line.
01/1971--A North Korean attempt to hijack a Korean Airline plane F-27 en route from Seoul to Sokcho on the east coast was foiled.
02/1974--North Korean patrol vessels sunk two South Korean fishing boats and detained 30 fishermen.
11/1974--A first North Korean infiltration tunnel dug across the DMZ was discovered.
08/1974--South Korean President Park Chung Hee's wife was killed during another attempt on his life. An agent of a pro-North Korean group in Japan who entered Seoul disguised as a tourist fired several shots at Park at a major public function; Park escaped unhurt, but the First Lady was hit by stray bullets and died several hours later. The agent, Mun Se-gwang, was tried and convicted, and executed.
09/1975--Two North Korean infiltrators were intercepted at Kochang, Cholla Pukdo; one was shot dead. During the encounter, two South Korean soldiers were killed and two wounded.
06/1976--Three North Korean infiltrators were shot to death in the eastern sector south of the DMZ, and the South Korean side suffered the loss of six soldiers and injuries to six others.
08/1976--A group of North Korean soldiers, wielding axes and metal pikes, attacked a U.S.-South Korean tree-trimming work team in a neutral area inside the DMZ at Panmunjom, killing 2 U.S. army officers and wounding 4 American enlisted men and 5 South Korean soldiers. In a message to UN Commander General Richard G. Stillwell, North Korea's Kim Il Sung described the incident as "regrettable," without admitting North Korean responsibility for what the U.S. government condemned as a "vicious and unprovoked murder" of the officers.
07/1977--A North Korean attempt to abduct a South Korean couple failed in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.
02/1978--South Korean actress Choi Eun-hee and her film-director husband Shin Sang-ok were kidnapped in Hong Kong and taken to Pyongyang. (In April 1984, South Korean government officials stated that the kidnappees were working in North Korea producing propaganda films that glorified Kim Il Sung and his son, Kim Jong Il). The couple escaped to South Korea in 1986 while on a filming assignment in Vienna.
10/1978--A third North Korean infiltration tunnel dug under the DMZ was discovered. The tunnel is considered especially significant because of its location, extending 400 meters south of the DMZ, barely two kilometers southwest of a forward U.S. army base and four kilometers from the truce village of Panmunjom. Military experts judge that 30,000 fully armed men accompanied by light artillery could pass through every hour.(17)
11/1978 --A team of three North Korean armed agents killed four South Korean citizens -- two in Hongsong County and one in Kongju County, Chungchong Namdo; and one at Osan, Kyonggido.
06/1979--A South Korean teacher Ko Sang-moon was abducted by North Koreans in the Netherlands.
10/1979--Three North Korean agents were intercepted while trying to infiltrate the eastern sector of the DMZ; one was killed.
07/1979--A North Korean attempt to abduct Han Yong-gil, an employee of the Korea Trade Promotion Agency, failed in France.
03/1980--Three North Koreans tried to infiltrate the South across the estuary of Han River; all were killed.
11/1980--Three North Korean infiltrators were shot to death at Whenggando, Cholla Namdo. One South Korean civilian was killed and six others wounded.
12/1980--Three North Korean agents were shot dead off the southern coast of Kyongsang Namdo. Two South Korean soldiers were killed and two others wounded.
03/1981--Of three North Korean infiltrators at Kumhwa, Kangwondo, one was shot dead.
06/1981--A North Korean spy boat was sunk off the coast of Sosan, Chungchong Namdo; 9 agents were shot to death and one was captured.
07/1981--Three North Korean agents were shot to death in the upper stream of Imjin River, while trying to cross the river into the South.
05/1982--Two North Korean infiltrators were spotted on the east coast; one was shot to death.
08/1982--Police in Canada uncovered a North Korean plot to assassinate South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan during a visit to that country.
10/1983--The explosion of a powerful bomb, several minutes before South Korean President Chun was to arrive to lay a wreath at the Martyr's Mausoleum in Rangoon, Burma (Myanmar), killed 17 senior South Korean officials and injured 14 who were accompanying President Chun, then on the first leg of a six-nation Asian tour. Among the killed were: presidential chief-of-staff and another senior presidential assistant; deputy prime minister/minister of economic planning; three cabinet members including foreign minister; 3 deputy ministers; and the South Korean ambassador to Burma. The explosion also killed four Burmese nationals and wounded 32 others. President Chun stated that the killings were "a grave provocation not unlike a declaration of war," and warned the North that "should such a provocation recur, there would be a corresponding retaliation in kind."(18) North Korean leader Kim Il Sung dismissed Chun's statement as "a preposterous slander."(19) Two suspects were arrested and tried in the Rangoon Divisional Court: North Korean army major, Zin Mo, and captain, Kang Min Chol. Captain Kang Min Chol confessed to the bombing and gave details of his training in North Korea and transport to Burma on a North Korean freighter. He also disclosed that after the arrival of his assassination team in Burma, the team stayed in the home of a North Korean embassy councillor. On November 4, Burma broke off diplomatic relations with North Korea.(20) In February 1984, the Burmese Supreme Court sustained the death penalty handed down by the lower court.
12/1983--Two North Korean armed spies, Chon Chung-nam and Yi Sang-gyu, were captured at Tadaepo.
02/1984--Two Canadians, Charles Yanover and Alexander Gerol, testified in a Canadian court that North Korean agents hired them in 1981 for $600,000 to assassinate South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan. They were convicted and sentenced to prison terms of one-to-two years. The assassination was to take place during Chun's visit to the Philippines in July 1982.
09/1984--A North Korean agent killed 2 residents of Taegu, South Korea, and severely wounded another before committing suicide.
10/1985--A North Korean spy ship was sunk by the South Korean navy off the coast of Pusan, South Korea.
09/1986--A bomb blast at Kimpo International Airport in Seoul killed five and wounded over 30. The chief of the South Korean National Police believed that North Korean agents, or individuals under North Korean direction or influences, planted the bomb.
01/1987--A North Korean attempt to abduct a South Korean citizen (Yoon Tae-shik) failed in Hong Kong.
01/1987--A South Korean fishing boat (#27 Tongjin-ho) was abducted along with 12 crewmen.(21)
08/1987--A South Korean student at MIT, Lee Chae-hwan, was kidnapped in Austria.
11/1987--A bomb planted by two North Korean terrorists on a Korean Airline Boeing 707, with 20 crew members and 95 passengers aboard, exploded in midair over the Andaman Sea off the coast of Burma. The plane was en route from Baghdad to Seoul. Kim Hyon-hui, one of the terrorists who was arrested in Bahrain and confessed to the crime, was tried and convicted in a Seoul court. The sabotage bombing was reportedly a North Korean warning against those planning to take part in the Seoul Olympics. (In January 1988, Kim, the self-confessed agent, stated that she had been trained for two years to pass as Japanese by a Japanese woman of Korean descent, Yi Un-hye, who Japanese police believe had been kidnaped by North Korean agents).
01/1988--U.S. Secretary of State determined "that North Korea is a country which has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism," under the authority of the Export Administration Act of 1979, as amended (50 U.S.C. App.2405(j)).(22)
06/1988--The head of a North Korean trading company revealed after his defection to the South that North Korean embassies around the world had been ordered to do everything possible to stop other countries from participating in the Seoul Olympics.
03/1990--Another North Korean infiltration tunnel dug under the DMZ was discovered; this was the fourth one uncovered since November 1974. (The second one was discovered in March 1975.) South Korean authorities believe that there may be as many as 17 tunnels in all. (See 10/1978 entry.)
06/1991--The North Korean ruling party's daily news organ, Nodong Sinmun, called on South Korean youths, students, and people to "eliminate the Roh Tae-woo fascist regime and establish a genuine democratic regime."
05/1992--Three North Koreans, in South Korean uniforms, were shot dead at Cholwon, Kangwondo, south of the DMZ. Three South Koreans were wounded in this encounter.
10/1992--A North Korean 400-member spy ring in South Korea, directed by North Korean Communist party official Lee Son-sil, was uncovered by South Korea's Agency for National Security Planning. It was revealed that the mission of the spy ring was to establish an underground command center for subversive operations in the South. According to the South Korean agency, North Korean agents had infiltrated through South Korea's coastlines.
12/1993--Vice Marshal Choe Kwang, Chief of the General Staff of the North Korean military (and defense minister, 1995-97), declared at a major state function that the military "has the heavy and honorable task of reunifying the fatherland with guns in the nineties without fail."(23)
03/1994--For the first time in more than two decades, North Korea issued a threat of war in an inter-Korean meeting in Panmunjom. In response to Seoul's chief delegate mentioning the possibility of UN sanctions against the North for its refusal to accept full international nuclear inspections, Pyongyang's chief delegate reportedly replied: "Seoul is not far away from here. If a war breaks out, Seoul will turn into a sea of fire."(24)
06/1994--A North Korean attempt to abduct a South Korean professor, Lee Jin-sang, from an Ethiopian university in Adis Ababa was foiled.
05/1995--A North Korean patrol boat fired on a South Korean fishing vessel, killing three South Korean fishermen; North Korea released 5 other fishermen in December 1995.
06/1995--North Korean soldiers threatened the captain of a South Korean vessel with harm in a North Korean port unless he hoisted the North Korean flag while the vessel was there to deliver a South Korean humanitarian rice shipment to the North.
07/1995--A team of three North Korean agents and their two Korean-Chinese collaborators in Jilin(25) abducted a South Korean pastor, the Reverend Ahn Seung-woon, in southern Manchuria and transported him to North Korea. Pyongyang claimed that Reverend Ahn defected voluntarily. (A North Korean, convicted in a Chinese court of masterminding the abduction, was deported to North Korea by China in July 1997 upon serving a two-year prison term.)
08/1995--North Korea seized a South Korean rice delivery vessel and arrested its crew in a North Korean port after a South Korean crewman took photographs from the ship. The ship was released 12 days later.
10/1995--Two armed North Koreans were intercepted at the Imjin River just south of the DMZ; one was shot to death and the other escaped.
10/1995--Two North Korean agents were intercepted at Puyo, about 100 miles south of Seoul; one was shot to death and the other was taken alive. The captured agent disclosed that he had infiltrated two months earlier, with a mission to contact anti-government dissidents, politicians, and an organization of underground cells.
04/1996--On three occasions, a combined total of several hundred armed North Korean troops crossed the military demarcation line into the joint security area of the DMZ at Panmunjom and elsewhere in violation of the Korean armistice agreement, after Pyongyang's unilateral announcement that it no longer would abide by the armistice provisions concerning the integrity of the DMZ.
05/1996--Seven North Korean soldiers crossed the military demarcation line facing South Korean defensive positions just south of the DMZ, but withdrew when South Korean troops fired warning shots.
05/1996--Five North Korean naval patrol craft crossed into South Korean territorial waters off the west coast (in an area designated as South Korean waters under the armistice accord) and withdrew after a four-hour standoff with South Korean naval vessels. A similar three-hour incursion by three North Korean craft in the same area occurred in June 1996.
07/1996--A North Korean spy was captured in Seoul after posing as a Filipino professor for 12 years. Chung Su Il (alias: Mohammed Kansu), 62, told police that "scores, perhaps hundreds" of North Korean spies were operating in the South.
09/1996--A disabled North Korean submarine was spotted bobbing off the shore near the city of Kangnung. Twenty-six North Korean military personnel landed on the east coast from the submarine that was found to be on an espionage/reconnaissance mission. According to South Korea, eleven of the infiltrators were shot to death by North Korean commandos who were on the submarine; 13 others refused to surrender and were killed in battle with South Korean troops; one was captured and one escaped. During the South Korean hunt for the infiltrators, North Koreans killed 11 South Korean military personnel and civilians and wounded five others.(26)
10/1996--Choi Duk Keun, a South Korean diplomat, was murdered in Vladivostok, Russia, following a North Korean threat to "retaliate" for the submarine incident. Circumstantial evidence initially pointed to North Korean complicity in the murder, and later autopsy results showed that poison found in Choi's body was the same type of poison carried by North Korean infiltrators from the grounded submarine in September.
02/1997--In Seoul, Lee Han-yong was shot by two hit men believed to be North Korean agents. Nephew of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's former wife, Song Hye-rim, Lee had defected to the South in 1982. The shooting took place three days after Hwang Jang-yop, a high ranking North Korean party official, walked into the South Korean consulate in Beijing for defection to the South. After being in coma, Lee died 10 days later in a Seoul hospital. The shooting was believed to be a warning to Hwang and other would-be defectors to the South.(27)
02/1997--North Korea threatened unspecified "retribution" against the South Korean newspaper Chung'ang Ilbo for publishing an account of Kim Il Sung's death occurring in the course of a heated verbal exchange between Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il in July 1994 -- a story attributed to Hwang Jang-yop, a North Korean defector via Beijing in February 1997.
03/1997--Japan's daily newspaper Sankei Shimbun, based on an interview with a former North Korean agent An Myong-chin (who defected to South Korea in September 1993), reported that in November 1977, Megumi Yokota, a 13-year-old Japanese school girl was abducted in Niigata City and taken to North Korea for use as a teaching aide at a North Korean school for spy training. Japanese authorities disclosed that An's description of the girl matched the profile of a girl reported missing in Niigata, Japan, at that time. Japanese authorities suspect that North Korea may have kidnapped at least nine other Japanese nationals since the mid-1970s.(28)
04/1997--Five North Korean soldiers opened fire at South Korean positions after crossing the Military Demarcation Line in the Cholwon sector.
06/1997--Three North Korean patrol boats slipped into South Korean-controlled waters in the Yellow Sea, about two miles south of the Military Demarcation Line, and opened fire at South Korean patrol boats, the first since October 1995 when a North Korean shore battery at Ongjin did so against South Korean naval vessels.
06/1997--North Korea's ruling party organ, Nodong Sinmun, continued to incite "pro-democratic" South Koreans to "overthrow" South Korea's Kim Young Sam government as "an urgent requirement" in a patriotic, anti-fascist struggle for "independence, democracy, and reunification."
06/1997--North Korea issued a threat to deliver "a merciless retaliatory blow" to South Korea's daily newspaper Choson Ilbo for its June 24 editorial urging Kim Jong Il to relinquish power in favor of "a new reform-oriented [North Korean] group." Denouncing the editorial as "the most provocative declaration of war against us," North Korea retorted that it had the right to retaliate "until . . . the Choson Ilbo ceases to exist."(29)
07/1997--Fourteen North Korean solders intruded some 70 meters south of the military demarcation line -- the midpoint of the four-kilometer-wide DMZ -- ignoring South Korean broadcast warnings to withdraw. The incursion led to a 23-minute exchange of heavy gunfire, the most serious since the intrusion of September 1996.
11/1997--North Korea threatened to "demolish" South Korea's state-run Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) alleged to be "a mouthpiece of fascist dictatorship." It vowed to "kill everyone involved" in the production of a KBS TV mini-series depicting the life of repression and corruption in North Korean society "without so much as waking up a mouse or a bird" unless the KBS dropped the production forthwith.(30)
11/1997--A North Korean ring of six espionage agents was uncovered in Seoul, including a noted professor emeritus, Ko Yong-pok, at the elite Seoul National University. Often hailed as "the founder of sociology" in Korea, Ko repeatedly spied for the North since 1973, while posing as a "conservative" consultant to the South Korean government on inter-Korean issues.
04/1998--A South Korean news dispatch quoted a member of the North Korean delegation to an inter-Korean conference in Beijing as making a "provocative statement" to the effect that North Korea would rather have a "liberation war" than capitulating to the South Korean attempt to "politicize" the food-and-fertilizer aid issue.(31)
06/1998--In a show of defiance against the United States, North Korea declared its intention to continue to develop, test, and deploy missiles as a means of countering the alleged U.S. military threat, adding that it had few options of earning foreign currency other than exporting missiles as a result of the U.S. policy aimed at "economic isolation" of the North. It also asserted that the United States should lift its economic embargo and compensate for losses that could be caused by termination of missile sales, if it is really concerned over North Korean missiles.(32)
06/1998--On June 22, a North Korean midget submarine was seized after it was spotted entangled in South Korean fishing nets off the South Korean town of Sokcho, south of the DMZ. When brought to shore three days later, the nine crew aboard were found dead inside from an apparent group suicide.
06/1998--On June 27, breaking a four-day silence on the incident, North Korea blamed the South for the death of the North Korean crew and demanded the immediate return of the bodies and the submarine. South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, stating that the submarine intrusion violated the armistice agreement as well as the basic inter-Korean agreement of 1992 for reconciliation, exchange and cooperation, urged North Korea to "admit responsibility and take reasonable measures."(33)
07/1998--A body of a North Korean frogman was found on a beach south of the DMZ, along with paraphernalia suggesting an apparent infiltration/espionage mission.
08/1998--U.S. intelligence agencies reportedly "detected a huge secret underground complex in North Korea that they believe is the centerpiece of an effort to revive the country's frozen nuclear weapons program," a development that could possibly signify Pyongyang's decision to abandon a 1994 "agreed framework" on suspending its suspected nuclear weapons program.(34) However, North Korea maintains that the underground complex in question is a civilian economic facility under construction as part of an unspecified economic undertaking. North Korea also claimed that the United States "should ... compensate for groundlessly humiliating and slandering us with fabrication and for infringing on our sovereignty and defaming us."(35) In the days following the disclosure on the underground complex, Washington and Seoul reportedly concluded that the underground facilities do not violate the 1994 agreed framework freezing the North's suspected nuclear weapons program.(36) (In May 1999, a group of U.S. inspectors visited the underground site; the suspected site at Kumchang-ri reportedly was "an extensive, empty tunnel complex").(37)
08/1998--On August 31, North Korea test-fired a new 3-stage Taepodong-1 missile in an arc over Japan, causing angry reactions from Japan and the United States as a provocation that stoked tensions in Northeast Asia. Several days later, however, North Korea claimed that it used a multistage rocket to successfully launch a satellite into orbit for peaceful exploration of space, not a ballistic missile as alleged by U.S. and other sources.(38)
11/1998--A North Korean high-speed spy boat got away from pursuers in South Korean waters near the west coast island of Kanghwa, aborting an apparent operation to infiltrate agents into or ferry agents back from the South.(39)
12/1998--At a Pyongyang rally, North Korean youths and students vowed to turn Washington into "a sea of fire and to crush Seoul and Tokyo."(40)
12/1998 --In a firefight, the South Korean navy sank a North Korean semi-submersible high-speed boat some 150 kilometers southwest of Pusan. The body of a North Korean frogman was recovered near the site. The vessel was first spotted two kilometers off the port city of You.(41)
03/1999--Two suspected spy ships of North Korea entered Japanese territorial waters off Noto Peninsula facing the Sea of Japan (a.k.a. the East Sea), disguised as Japanese fishing trawlers (without fishing nets but bristling with an array of antennas).(42) They led a small armada of Japanese coast guard and naval ships and aircraft on a high-speed chase before fleeing into the North Korean port of Ch'ongjin, known to be frequented by North Korean spy operations vessels. North Korea denied its involvement in the reported incident.(43)
06/1999--Several North Korean ships provoked a nine-day naval confrontation off South Korea's western coast in disputed waters on the Yellow Sea -- over the disputed sea border known as the Northern Limit Line (NLL).(44) On June 15, 1999, when the confrontation ended in an exchange of fire, both sides blamed each other for starting the firefight. One North Korean torpedo boat caught fire and sank with its entire crew on board, while five others were heavily damaged. Two of the more modern South Korean vessels sustained minor damage. It was the most serious naval clash since the end of the Korean War -- and the second such incident since December 1998 (see above). Since the June encounter, North Korea asserted that more bloodshed would be "inevitable" unless the South Korean intrusion into "our territorial waters is checked." It also called on the U.S. side to renounce the NL and to "withdraw all its ships from the disputed waters."(45)
09/1999 --On September 9, 1999, the South Korean National Intelligence Service announced the arrest of five South Koreans, alleged to be members of a pro-North group called the "Revolutionary Party for People and Democracy." It was reported that the group had been formed in March 1992 to radicalize South Korean college campuses for revolutionary and anti-American activities, getting instructions from Pyongyang through the "Hotmail" web-based e-mail service(46) -- this despite Pyongyang's solemn pledge in 1992 to the South not to attempt to sabotage or undermine it.(47) On October 7, 1999, South Korean security authorities identified nearly 20 more members as alleged members of the "Revolutionary Party for People and Democracy.(48)
01/2000--South Korean Rev. Dong-Shik Kim, a legal resident of Lynchburg, Virginia, was reported missing in Yanji, northeastern China, since January 16, 2000.(49) Rev. Kim is said to have told his coworkers on that day that he would go out for lunch with two North Korean defectors. Citing the Dong-A Ibo report (February 3, 2000), Seoul's Yonhap news agency reported that those defectors were actually North Korean agents disguised as defectors and that ten people were involved in Rev. Kim's "kidnapping.(50)
03/2000--On March 9, North Korea rejected a U.S. request that it stop providing shelter to members of the now-defunct Japanese Communist League-Red Army faction, who had hijacked a Japanese airliner to Pyongyang in 1970 (see 03/1970 above), and expel or deport those members still in the North. In a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency, North Korea claimed, "It is the sovereign state's legitimate right recognized by international law to protect members of the Japanese 'Red Army' who sought political asylum in the DPRK, and nobody can put his nose into this issue."(51) A State Department counter-terrorism expert was reported to have stated that sheltering hijackers remained a serious offence, even if they did not carry out acts of violence for years.

1. Kyodo [Tokyo] in English, March 13, 2000.

2. The conditions North Korea must comply with reportedly include: a written pledge that it will never engage in terrorist activities; a demonstration of not having engage in any such activities in the past six months; accession to an international pact created to prevent such activities; taking action to deal with its past terrorist activities. Kyodo in English, March 9, March 13, 2000.

3. Jonathan Wright, "U.S. 'Terrorism' List May Change This year," Reuters, February 10, 2000; Kyodo in English, February 10, 2000.

4. This report is an expanded, revised, and updated version of a CRS memo on the "History of North Korean Terrorist Activities," March 27, 1997. For the earlier version, see Congressional Record, v. 143, No. 101, July 16, 1997, S7528-S7530.

5. For information, see CRS Report for Congress. North Korean Drug Trafficking: Allegations and Issues for Congress, by Raphael Perl, RS20051, updated September 14, 1999; United States Department of State. International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, March 2000, VIII 39-41. The State Department report states: "There have been regular reports from many official and unofficial sources for at least the last 20 to 30 years that [North Korea] encourages illicit opium cultivation and engages in trafficking of opiates and other narcotic drugs as a criminal state enterprise. These reports continued in 1999"; U.S. Department of State. 1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Democratic People's Republic of Korea, February 25, 2000; "UN Says N Korea Ships 'Heavily Involved' in Drug Trade," Associated Press, February 23, 2000.

6. U.S. Secretary of State designated North Korea as a terrorist state on January 20, 1988, under the authority of section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act of 1979. North Korea may not be taken off the list of terrorist states unless the President waives this prohibition after consulting with Congress and determining that national security interests or humanitarian reasons warrant the removal. For removal, the President is also required to certify to Congress that either, 1) there has been a fundamental change in leadership and government policies; the government is no longer supporting acts of terrorism; and it has provided assurances that it will not do so in the future, or 2) 45 days in advance of removing the terrorist designation, the government has not supported acts of terrorism for the past six months and has provided assurance that it will not do so in the future.

As of March 2000, North Korea was listed as one of the seven "state sponsors of international terrorism" (along with Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and Syria); see United States Department of State. Patterns of Global Terrorism 1998: Overview of State-Sponsored Terrorism (On North Korea, this 1998 report states,"The Democratic People's Republic of Korea has not been linked solidly to the planning or execution of an international terrorist attack since 1987, when a KAL airliner was bombed in flight. North Korea continues to provide safehaven to members of the Japanese Communist League-Red Army Faction who participated in the hijacking of a Japanese Airlines flight to North Korea in 1970. In March [1998], P'yongyang allowed members of the Japanese Diet [Parliament] to visit some of the hijackers). For a discussion on the U.S. sanctions under several layers of legal restrictions, see U.S. Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service. Korea: Procedural and Jurisdictional Questions Regarding Possible Normalization of Relations with North Korea. CRS Report [Washington]. November 29, 1994. 41 p. 94-933 S.

7. [North] Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in English, March 9, 2000.

8. KCNA in English, April 17, 1993; KCNA in English, February 23, 1996; KCNA in English, August 13, 1998; and [North] Korean Central Broadcasting Station in Korean, February 11, 2000.

9. The invasion followed North Korea's proposal on June 19, 1950, that the two Koreas should "fully implement all measures related to peaceful reunification" of Korea by August 15; and that, to that end, "North Korea was prepared to dispatch a parliamentary delegation Seoul on June 21, 1950, or to receive a South Korean delegation in Pyongyang" to negotiate unification procedures. For Independent and Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland (Documents). [In Korean] Pyongyang: Committee for Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland. 1971, p.22. For a comment that, on June 15, 1950, the North Korean high command had actually begun moving troops toward the 38th parallel, see "The Korean War" by Billy C. Mossman in Encyclopedia of the American Military. Vol. II. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1994, p. 1027. For a disclosure by a former North Korean ambassador to the Soviet Union that Kim Il Sung initiated the invasion of the South after consultations with Stalin, see "Former Official Finally Confesses North's Ruse Started Korean War," Washington Times, July 5, 1990, A9. For a scholarly presentation on Kim Il Sung's role in the events leading up to the war, see Sergei N. Goncharov, John W. Lewis, and Xue Litai, Uncertain Parters: Stalin, Mao, and the Korean War. Stanford University Press, 1993, pp. 136-154.

10. A virtually total embargo on U.S. commercial and financial transactions and freezing of North Korean assets in the United States has been in force since the North Korean invasion of 1950. For legal restrictions relating to the U.S. sanctions, see U.S. Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service. Korea: Procedural and Jurisdictional Questions Regarding Possible Normalization of Relations with North Korea. op. cit.

11. The peak years of infiltration were 1967 and 1968, accounting for 743 armed agents out of some 3,693 infiltrators between 1954 and 1992. Vantage Point [Seoul], November 1995, p.17.

12. North Korea described these armed infiltrators as "South Korean revolutionary armed guerrillas" engaged in the armed struggle to "drive out the U.S. imperialist aggressors and to overthrow their lackeys..." KCNA in English, November 8, December 10, and December 28, 1968.

13. In response to U.S. appeal for assistance, the Soviet Union dispatched two destroyers for cooperation with the U.S. in a search for survivors and debris from the downed plane.

14. In July 1985, the United Revolutionary Party was renamed "the [South] Korean National and Democratic Front," with a parallel, new emphasis on an intensified campaign against U.S. military presence in South Korea.

15. Yonhap in English, March 9, 1999.

16. "N.Korea Says Won't Expel Japan Red Army Members," Reuters, March 9,2000.

17. Korean Overseas Information Service, Tunnels of War: North Korea Catacombs the DMZ. Seoul, Korea. November 1978, p.2.

18. As cited in Keesing's Contemporary Archives [London], December 1983, pp. 32566-32567. Senior Reagan administration officials stated October 12 that the United States had urged South Korea to show "restraint" and not to retaliate with force even if the North was discovered to be behind the bombing.

19. For Pyongyang's suggestion that the bombing incident was "masterminded" by Chon Doo Hwan for a "hideous purpose," see a commentator's article ("With No Fabrication Can They Conceal the Truth") in Nodong Sinmun in Korean, October 18, 1983.

20. North Korean foreign ministry termed the Burmese government action as "an unjustifiable act of ignoring international law and usage and infringing upon the dignity and authority of our Republic." It also proclaimed: "We had already made it clear that we had nothing to do with the incident. We, by nature, have never resorted to individual terrorism and assassination and such thing is alien to us." A foreign ministry statement as carried by KCNA in English, November 4, 1983.

21. In April 1999, North Korea claimed that these crewmen were "voluntary defectors" to the North.

22. As a result, exports to North Korea of goods or technology that are determined of being able to make a significant contribution to its military potential, or enhance its ability to support acts on international terrorism, require a validated license. Denial of the license, in effect, would constitute a ban on such exports. For more on this point, see U.S. Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service. Korea: Procedural and Jurisdictional Questions Regarding Possible Normalization of Relations with North Korea, op. cit., pp. 27-28, p. 34.

23. [North] Korean Central Broadcasting Network [Pyongyang], December 23, 1993.

24. North Korea's "Sea of Fire" Threat Shakes Seoul, Financial Times [London], March 22, 1994, p. 6.

25. As reported by Sang-ho Yoon, "North Korean Secret Agents in China Operate in the Guise of Defectors," Dong-A Ilbo in Korean, February 22, 2000.

26. After three weeks of negotiations with U.S. officials, North Korea on December 29 expressed its "deep regret" for the infiltration and vowed it would "make efforts to ensure that such an incident will not recur." Facts on File Yearbook 1996, p.1008.

27. A member of a North Korean spy ring uncovered by South Korean authorities in November 1997 reportedly confirmed the fact that Lee was assassinated by a three-man North Korean terrorist ring. The Korea Times (Internet Version) [Seoul], November 23, 1997.

28. Kyodo in English, March 31, 1998. For its part, North Korean maintains, "not only does kidnaping not exist in our country, but it also has never occurred in our country....No one in our country is interested in terrorism such as kidnapping and murder....Based on our investigation, we already notified Japan that there were no such people in our country...In other words, the issue has already been settled." [North] Korean Central Broadcasting Station in Korean, February 11, 2000. On March 10, 2000, the North Korea Red Cross Society announced a "restart" of an investigation into the whereabouts of 'missing' Japanese under an accord it had reached with its Japanese counterpart on December 21, 1999. KCNA in English, March 10, 2000.

29. The threat was repeated for the next two months. In response to the threat to "blow up" the Choson Ilbo building complex.

30. KCNA in English, December 16, 1997; Yonhap in English [Seoul], November 17, 1997.

31. Song Dae-su, North Korea: "Liberation War Rather Than Negotiations," Han'guk Ilbo [U.S. edition], April 18, 1998.

32. KCNA in English, June 16, 1998. Kevin Sullivan, "N.Korea Admits Selling Missiles," Washington Post, June 17, 1998, A1, A2. In August 1998, North Koreans told a visiting delegation of congressional staffers that Pyongyang would stop ballistic missile sales to countries such as Iran in exchange for U.S. compensation of $500 million annually. See Staffdel Kirk Final Report to Benjamin A. Gilman (R-NY), Chairman, International Relations Committee, U.S. House of Representatives: Mission to North Korea and China, August 11-23, 1998, p.4. On a related matter, the Department of State (Public Notice 2798) announced sanctions against North Korea, effective April 17, 1998, for engaging in missile technology proliferation activities pursuant to the Arms Export Control, as amended, and the Export Administration Act of 1979, as amended (as carried out under Executive Order 12424 of August 19, 1994). Federal Register. V.63, No.85, May 4, 1998, p.24585. North Korean exports of missiles to Iran and Syria since the 1980s as well as the recent transfer of missile technology including major components to Pakistan remain a concern of the U.S. government. For more information, see Congressional Research Service. North Korea: Military Relations with the Middle East, by Kenneth Katzman and Rinn-Sup Shinn. CRS Report 94-754 F, September 27, 1994.

33. South Korea played down the incident in an apparent effort to sustain President Kim Dae Jung's so-called "sunshine policy" toward the North, or a conciliatory policy of engagement. The Korea Herald [Internet Version], July 16, 1998.

34. David E. Sanger, "North Korea Site an A-Bomb Plant, U.S. Agencies Say: Could Break '94 Accord," New York Times, August 17, 1998, A1, A4; "North Korea's Nuclear Ambitions," New York Times, August 19, 1998, A34; "Politics of Blackmail," Washington Post, August 24, 1998, A18.

35. [North] Korean Central Broadcasting Network in Korean, September 19, 1998.

36. "Pyongyang's Provocation," Wall Street Journal, September 1, 1998, A18.

37. Yonhap in English, June 5, 1999.

38. North Korea also claimed to have reached "a world-class level in the technological and engineering field of rocketry and developing artificial satellites" and been "lauded by mankind as a powerful state of ideas, military, and creation." [Political Essay]: "Magnificent Gun Roaring of Building a Powerful State," [North] Korean Central Broadcasting Network in Korean, October 6, 1998. The International Civil Aviation Organization condemned North Korea for its test-launching, without advance notification, over an area affecting the safety of some 180 daily flights between North America and Asia. Kyodo in English [Internet Version], October 3, 1998. On February 9, 2000, U.S. CIA official in charge of strategic and nuclear issues was reported to have told the Senate Governmental Affairs Subcommittee that North Korea appeared to be "continuing its ballistic missile program and selling technology to other nations despite a well-publicized testing moratorium" [as agreed in Berlin between the United States and North Korea in September 1999]. Tom Raum, Associated Press, February 9, 2000; "N. Korea Continuing Missile Program: CIA Official,"Kyodo in English, February 9, 2000.

39. After warning North Korea to cease "provocative actions," the South Korean Ministry of Defense disciplined six military officers for failing to capture or sink the boat. North Korea claimed innocence, saying that the South Korean charge was a premeditated anti-North Korean slander. This infiltration came on the day President Clinton landed in Seoul for talks with President Kim Dae Jung; it also coincided with the start of an inter-Korean tourism cooperation project involving scenic Mt. Kumgang (Diamond) north of the DMZ. The Korea Herald [Internet Version] in English, November 23, 1998; Yonhap in English, November 26, 1998; and KCNA in English November 23, 1998.

40. This belligerent rhetoric was in reaction to a media report on a putative U.S. operational plan to deal with "any possible North Korean invasion" of South Korea. [North] Korean Central Broadcasting Network in Korean, December 10, 1998; Richard Halloran, "S. Korea, U.S. Draft Deadly Response Plan: If North Invades, Destruction is Goal," Washington Times, November 19, 1998, A1, A13. In a similar vein, a North Korean vice minister of defense is quoted as having declared that the Korean People's Army will "blow up the U.S. territory as a whole"; a day earlier, North Korea had disclosed that it had its "own operation plan" to deal with its enemies. KCNA in English, December 2 and 3, 1998.

41. Yomiuri Shimbun [Tokyo] in Japanese, December 19, 1998.

42. The area of incursion is off the coastal region where the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents was reported to have taken place in the 1970s and 1980s. Asahi Shimbun in Japanese, March 25, 1999, Morning Edition, p.5.

43. In the course of the chase, for the first time in the postwar era, Japanese naval and air patrol pursuers fired warning shots at the unidentified ships and dropped four bombs in the waters nearby. Ibid.; Yomiuri Shimbun in Japanese, March 25, March 26, 1999.

44. The NLL was drawn ("unilaterally," according to Pyongyang) by the United Nations Command (UNC) after the Korean War to prevent armed clashes between the two Koreas. While North Korea never accepted its validity, the NLL as the de facto maritime border was honored by the North until it decided to force the issue in June 1999. Pyongyang reportedly violated the NLL 37 times from 1994 to 1997 and 35 times in 1998, more in the seasonal crab-catching months of May to September. Choson Ilbo in English (Internet version), September 5, 1999; Choson Ilbo in English (Internet version), September 8, 1999.

45. "Five-Point Proposal Set Forth by KA Side," KCNA in English, July 2, 1999. North Korea claims that the disputed waters belongs to the North under the international maritime law defining 12 nautical miles as territorial waters. See "Balderdash About 'Northern Limit Line," KCNA in English, July 11, 1999.

46. JoongAng Ibo in English (Internet version), September 9, 1999; The Korea Herald in English (internet version), September 10, 1999.

47. Articles 1 through 4 in the historic inter-Korean Agreement on Reconciliation, Nonaggression, and Exchanges and Cooperation , effective February 19, 1992.

48. Choson Ilbo in English (Internet version), October 7, 1999. An extensive coverage on how this spy ring operated appeared in Wolgan Choson in Korean [Seoul], October 1999, pp 66-89 (available in English translation by the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, SK1710141199).

49. Rev. Kim is reported to have been actively involved since 1995 in evangelical work among North Korean escapees/refugees in Yanji, Jilin Province, China, where he ran a restaurant. Chinese authorities reportedly are suspicious that Rev. Kim was kidnapped by North Korean agents but that, according to the South Korean foreign ministry, there was no official confirmation from the Chinese side. In 1999, Rev. Kim reportedly led a signature drive to urge the United Nations to recognize North Korean escapees as refugees. Yonhap in English 0006 GMT February 3 and 0624 GMT February 3, 2000.

50. According to a tape-recorded testimony of a former North Korean agent now in hiding in Jilin, China, "a substantial number" of North Korean refugees in China are actually North Korea's undercover agents disguised as refugees assigned to abduct North Korean escapees/defectors. As reported by Sang-ho Yoon on "the realities of abduction revealed by a North Korean agent" in China, Dong-A Ilbo in Korean, February 22, 2000.

51. "Statement of Spokesman for DPRK Society for Human Rights Studies," KCNA in English, March 9, 2000; KCNA in Korean, March 13, 2000..

ICAS Fellow
Speakers &
Lectures &