SEOUL – The pilot of the Japan Airlines passenger jet hijacked by the Japanese Red Army Faction to Pyongyang in 1970 intentionally landed the plane in Seoul, trying to fool the hijackers, according to documents declassified by South Korea.
In the documents, declassified Thursday, the South Korean government concludes that the landing of the jetliner named “Yodo” at Seoul’s Gimpo International Airport was planned by Capt. Shinji Ishida, who was described as “experienced.”
“The landing at Gimpo was Pilot Ishida’s intended plan, although it was not made public at the time to ensure Pilot Ishida’s safety,” the papers say.
Ishida has rejected the conclusions in the documents, claiming, “I was planning to fly to Pyongyang and was totally unaware of any plan to land in South Korea.”
The documents also say the United States refused Japan’s requests to send jet fighters to escort the hijacked airplane or to allow the plane to land at a U.S. military base in South Korea.
There has been wide speculation as to who was in charge of having the plane land at Gimpo and trying to fool the hijackers into believing they had landed in Pyongyang.
The aircraft was flying 129 passengers from Fukuoka to Tokyo on March 31, 1970, when it was hijacked by nine Red Army Faction members, who demanded they be flown to Pyongyang.
However, later in the day, the plane landed at Gimpo, where the hijackers released 23 passengers, including women and children.
After three days of negotiations, the hijackers released the rest of passengers and most the crew, keeping the pilot and two others, in exchange for Shinjiro Yamamura, the parliamentary vice transport minister.
The plane flew from Seoul to the North Korean capital on April 3, where the hijackers were granted political asylum. The plane returned to Japan the next day, with Yamamura and the crew.
Three of the nine hijackers have since died and two who later returned to Japan were convicted of hijacking.