A Chinese commercial airliner with 105 people on board was hijacked to South Korea today, crossing the heavily armed 38th Parallel separating South and North Korea and landing at a U.S. military base.
Two crew members reportedly were wounded when the plane was seized. It was unclear late tonight what had happened to the hijackers. South Korean officials reported that they had taken five men and a woman into custody.
It was the first successful hijacking of a Chinese plane to a foreign country, although Chinese military pilots have defected with aircraft.
The British-built Trident 2E jet of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, was diverted while on a domestic flight from Shenyang, in northeast China, to Shanghai. It flew over North Korea and then, as it crossed the demilitarized zone, it waved its wings to signify it wanted permission to land, the South Korean government said.
The plane was routed to Camp Page, an American military airbase at Chunchon, 30 miles south of the DMZ and 45 miles northeast of Seoul, by South Korean Air Force fighters. It landed shortly after 2 p.m.
A South Korean government spokesman said two of the crew members had been wounded by gunfire during the flight and had been taken to a hospital in Seoul for medical treatment. The wounded men were the navigator and the communicator, officials said.
The remaining passengers and crew members were allowed to leave the plane seven hours after it landed and were taken to hotels in Chunchon, the spokesman said.
Press reports said the hijackers had demanded a meeting with the Taiwanese ambassador to South Korea amid speculation that they intended to ask the rival Chinese government on Taiwan for political asylum.
In Peking, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said it "requests that the South Korean authorities immediately return the aircraft together with all the crew members and passengers . . . and hand over the criminals that hijacked the airliner," The Associated Press reported.
In October, Wu Yungkeng, a Chinese Air Force pilot, flew a MiG19 fighter to South Korea and was granted political asylum in Taiwan, where he received a hero's welcome, $2.5 million in gold and a commission in the Air Force. Last month, Maj. Li Dawei, a Taiwanese Air Force pilot, defected to China in a U6A jet. Amid growing embarrassment in Peking over Chinese citizens seeking political asylum abroad, the state-controlled Chinese press gave prominent coverage to Li's defection.