WAKKANAI, Hokkaido – Unclaimed personal effects recovered after a South Korean jumbo jet was shot down by a Soviet fighter in 1983 were incinerated earlier this week along the seashore here.
About 30 relatives of some of the Japanese victims of the tragedy witnessed the incineration of 371 items, including clothes, shoes and bags, that had been held by the Wakkanai City Government after they drifted ashore.
The ceremony took place Monday — the 20th anniversary of the downing of the jet after a group of victims’ families gave its consent.
On Sep. 1, 1983, a Soviet fighter attacked the Korean Airlines Boeing 747 over Sakhalin, causing it to crash into the Sea of Okhotsk with the loss of all 269 passengers and crew members on board, including 27 Japanese.
The fighter is believed to have mistaken the passenger plane for a spy plane after it entered Soviet airspace en route from New York to Seoul via Anchorage. Korean Airlines was renamed Korean Air after the crash.
Most of the personal incinerated effects had washed up on the shores of Wakkanai, which is near the northernmost tip of Hokkaido, some 75 km south of Sakhalin.
Among the relatives at the ceremony was Toyoko Ito, 57, who lost her sister in the incident. “I was unable to find my sister’s personal effects after all, but it is heartbreaking to think that they may have been among” the items incinerated, the teary-eyed Ito said as she watched the items burn.