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Report: Documents Back SKorea Chief

February 19, 1998

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ For years, President-elect Kim Dae-jung has said he was abducted in Tokyo in 1973 by agents of a South Korean government that saw him as a dangerous dissident.

A Seoul newspaper today published what it said were secret government documents supporting Kim’s claim, which he has never been able to prove but most South Koreans believe.

The newspaper Dong-A Ilbo said the documents came from the old Korea Central Intelligence Agency, now known as the Agency for National Security Planning.

Kim, who takes office next week as the first opposition leader ever to lead the country, said the report didn’t surprise him.

``I have always believed that the truth would be known eventually,″ Kim was quoted as saying by his spokesman, Chung Dong-young. ``But I promise again that I will not seek political revenge.″

In a presidential election in 1971, Kim, running as an opposition candidate, came close to defeating dictator Park Chung-hee. Park strengthened his grip on the country by revamping the constitution a year later, and Kim went into exile.

While staying at a Tokyo hotel in August 1973, Kim said he was kidnapped by several unidentified men who knocked him out with a chloroform-soaked rag.

He said he regained consciousness on a ship in the Sea of Japan, tied to a weighted board and close to being dumped overboard by his abductors.

The plot was foiled, Kim said, when a U.S. military helicopter made a low pass over the ship. Dazed, he was left several days later near his home in Seoul, where he spent the next few years under house arrest.

The documents published by Dong-A Ilbo listed the names of 46 KCIA agents and the specific roles they played in the kidnapping.

The paper also quoted Lee Chul-hee, then the assistant deputy director of KCIA, as saying that he was ordered by his boss, Lee Hu-rak, to ``bring Kim Dae-jung home at whatever cost.″

The intelligence agency had no immediate comment on the report.

The kidnapping helped turn an international spotlight on Kim, attracting the attention of human rights groups and politicians in the United States, Japan and elsewhere.

It also created a serious diplomatic row between Japan and South Korea after some Japanese politicians demanded their government investigate the abduction. The row was patched up several years later when South Korea made a vague apology and both governments agreed there was no need for an inquiry.

In Tokyo, the Asahi Newspaper said in an editorial today that the new revelations could lead to a reappraisal of the political settlement of the case.

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