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Socialist Party Fires Editor Over Controversial Article

May 28, 1988

TOKYO (AP) _ Japan’s main opposition party fired the editor of its newspaper Friday over an article saying the United States, Japan, South Korea, and Bahrain were involved in the bombing of a Korean jetliner last year.

The action was taken after South Korea expressed anger over the article, which quoted former South Korean Prime Minister Kim Chung-yul as saying the governments of those countries were behind the plane’s disappearance.

The Korean Air Lines Boeing 707 vanished off the coast of Burma in November with 115 people aboard.

Socialist Party General Secretary Tsuruo Yamaguchi on Thursday announced plans to retract the article and publish an apology on the front page of the paper’s next edition, due out May 31.

The article, which appeared in the party’s semi-weekly Shakai Shimpo on Tuesday, quoted Kim as saying the plot was carried out to ensure the election in December of Roh Tae-woo as South Korea’s president.

″Following a party executive meeting this morning, the editor of the paper has been removed, and the reporter who wrote the article has been warned,″ said a party spokesman who commented on condition of anonymity.

A member of the paper’s editorial staff, who spoke on condition he not be further identified, refused to say why the report had not been more closely scrutinized prior to publication. He said that since the newspaper has no correspondents in Korea, ″there may have been limitations in translation.″

Issei Inoue, head of the party’s international division, was called to the Foreign Ministry on Friday to explain the incident after the South Korean government issued a formal protest late Thursday night, the spokesman said.

″The honor of the Korean people has been seriously harmed by the article,″ said South Korean Embassy minister Park Ryun in a statement delivered to the Japanese government Thursday afternoon.

South Korea has accused communist North Korea of blowing up the plane in an effort to disrupt the Olympic Games in Seoul. North Korea has been demanding to be a co-host of the Games but denied involvement in the plane incident.

A young woman who was a passenger on an early part of the flight was arrested and said she was an agent trained in North Korea and had planted a bomb on the plane.

South Korea disagrees with the Japanese Socialist Party’s friendly stance toward North Korea.

The party in turn has refused to recognize a 1965 bilateral agreement normalizing Japan’s relations with the southern half of the Korean peninsula. Though Japan has no formal diplomatic ties with the North, the Socialists and North Korea maintain good relations.

In a major policy shift last February, however, the party lifted a long- standing ban on travel to South Korea by party officials in recognition of Seoul’s advancement toward democratization.

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