TOKYO, SEPT. 24 -- The South Korean government is blocking publication of two magazine articles that reportedly contain new evidence of government involvement in the 1973 kidnaping of opposition leader Kim Dae Jung.
The articles reportedly contain interviews with Lee Hu Rak, who was head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency in 1973, in which Lee acknowledges that the KCIA masterminded Kim's kidnaping from a Tokyo hotel room. South Korea has always maintained that no officials were involved in the bizarre event, which damaged South Korea's international reputation and its relations with Japan.
Kim had left South Korea after narrowly losing a presidential election to Park Chung Hee, the former general. Park imposed a new constitution shortly after the election that gave him sweeping powers.
Kim had been seeking to drum up opposition to Park's dictatorship in the United States and Japan when he was kidnaped from a Tokyo hotel room in August 1973. He has said his abductors drugged him, tied him and transferred him to a speedboat, where he had weights tied to his legs as the boat set out to sea.
According to reliable accounts, the U.S. CIA and other officials discovered what was happening and protested privately in strong terms to the South Korean government, perhaps saving Kim's life. Kim has said he heard an airplane fly over the boat, apparently relaying some signal, after which the weights were removed.
Kim's abductors delivered him to Seoul several days later, where he was placed under house arrest.
At the time, South Korea insisted that no officials were involved, and the government has never changed its position. After long negotiations and an informal apology from then prime minister Kim Jong Pil, the Japanese accepted the South Korean position.
South Korean officials quoted in Seoul newspapers today said any article challenging the official version of the story would violate the law.
"The case was legally and diplomatically resolved, as it was not related to any official authorities," one official said. "The government cannot allow any other thinking that is not identical to the conclusion made by the two countries."
Korean newspapers did not report the contents of the articles in the Shindong-a and monthly Chosun magazines, only that they contained accounts about the kidnaping from former KCIA chief Lee. Mainichi Shimbun in Tokyo reported that the articles quote Lee as saying he organized the abduction, without the knowledge of Park.
It is not clear why Lee would choose to discuss the case now. Two of the principals involved, Kim Dae Jung, the kidnap victim, and Kim Jong Pil, the former premier, are considering running for president this fall, and the articles might have been intended to embarrass either.
Although Lee's version differs from the official one, it also reportedly challenges Kim Dae Jung's account. Lee reportedly said, for example, that there was never any intention to kill Kim.
A political liberalization begun in June has triggered a series of long articles in the two monthlies, each with a circulation of about 300,000, about subjects that were taboo until recently. But the government so far has drawn the line at reexamination of the kidnaping case.
"We believe discussion of the case based on unclear statements will cause a critical diplomatic setback, against the national interest," an official said.