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The article, which you will now read, was given to me especially for publication in Izvestia by the leaders of the American Association of Families of the KAL-007 Victims.
This article will complete the American part of the mystery of the Korean Boeing-747. Of course, I am sure that it will be necessary to revisit this subject again and again. If only to report what the press in the United States is able to dig up. There are signs that the Izvestia articles have renewed the interest of the American press, which seemed to have completely disappeared a long time ago. The only problem, as Americans journalists admit quite openly, is that journalists, editors and readers are mainly interested not in the Sakhalin events of seven years ago, but in the current events in the Persian gulf. It is as though not much of anything else exists regardless of how important. For the time being at least.
I certainly do not rule out the possibility of action from Capitol Hill. They have been carefully following the material in Izvestia and in my opinion, we can expect an intensified searche for facts related to what happened more than seven years ago.
The Izvestia articles also renewed the interest of experts, who were involved one way or another in the investigation of the Sakhalin tragedy. Some of them have already called the press office to set up meetings.
So is still too early to completely rule out American reports.
Report from the USA by Aleksandr SHALNEV. Part 6
30 August 1983 was warm, humid, and somewhat cloudy in New York. Toward evening it began to drizzle.
It was the end of the vacation season. It was the eve of what we call Labor Day Weekend (on U.S. calendars Labor Day is the last day of summer vacation - A. Shalnev).
The 269 passengers and crew members began gathering that evening in the American Airlines terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport, the departure point for Korean Airlines flight 007 to Seoul, South Korea.
There were 23 children under 12 years of age in the group of passengers from 16 countries. Among the passengers were 75 Koreans, 61 Americans, 23 Taiwanese, 28 Japanese, 15 Finns, 12 Chinese from Hong Kong, 10 Canadians, and six Thais. There were 12 passengers in first class. Six Korean Airlines employees were also on the flight, crew members returning to Seoul. There was also a family of four, a porter for Alaska International Airlines, his wife and two children. They were taking advantage of the discounted tickets offered to airline employees and were flying back to Alaska after visiting his parents in New Jersey.
One passenger got caught in a traffic jam on his way to the airport from his New York office and missed the flight.
The passengers were a diverse lot. Some were flying to Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, or another country on business. Some were going to visit friends or relatives. Some were going to the funerals of loved ones and some were returning home after vacationing in the United States. There were undergraduates and graduate students going to teach or study. And there were tourists looking forward to seeing the sights. Among the passengers was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He had missed the previous flight because the plane on which he was had to take from Atlanta, Georgia, to New York was forced to land in Baltimore because of bad weather. This passenger was a member of a congressional delegation, which was supposed to participated in the celebration in Seoul marking the 30th anniversary of the treaty between the United States and South Korea.
Flight 007 departed New York shortly after midnight. After refueling and changing crews in Anchorage, it was scheduled to arrive at Kimpo Airport in Seoul at 0600 on the morning of 1 September.
Flight 007 was never completed. The aircraft deviated from its assigned route and its flight was ended over Sakhalin. All the passengers perished. Their bodies, if the official announcement is to be believed, their bodies were never found.
Now, more than seven years after the tragedy, the families of the victims still do not know either the precise location of the aircraft wreckage or the fate of their friends and loved ones.
Some of the wreckage was cast up by the sea onto the shore of the northernmost point of the Japanese island of Hokkaido. Seventy-six different objects, fragments and also personal belongings, were given by the (Soviet) authorities to Japan. These were mainly sneakers, a few toys, and some pieces of clothe, which one of the passengers was taking to sew some fashionable clothing. There was also a scrap of a business card. There were no passports or other papers normally carried by passengers. No baggage or other cargo from the aircraft was returned.
Since the families of the victims were not able to get any answers to their inquires about the fate of their friends and loved ones, they united and created groups in Korea, Japan, and the United States, which obtain help from these countries in resolving many of the unanswered questions related to the loss of the aircraft.
Just recently, after Senators Edward Kennedy, Bill Bradley, Carl Levin, and Sam Nunn sent letters to President Gorbachev and after THE NEW YORK TIMES began publishing articles by the journalist Richard Witkin concerning a possible investigation of the KAL-007 tragedy, after Izvestia courageously conducted an exhaustive journalistic investigation, did they release to the public some shocking information about what happened, information that caused sorrow and pain.
But even though people have now began to talk again about the tragedy of KAL-007, the grieving families still do not know what happened to the bodies of their loved ones or where they are. The families want the bodies to be turned over to them for burial. The families want to know what happened to the personal effects of the passengers. They want to know why civilian aircraft was shot down in spite of international agreements with precise instructions and rules regarding what actions to take in relation to an aircraft that has entered foreign air space.
The families of the deceased want to be given the opportunity to visit the location of the catastrophe and organize prayer services in memory of their children, husbands, wives, relatives, and friends. They want the "black boxes" to be returned and they want all the reports (possible official investigations - A.Sh.) pertaining to the fate of the KAL-007 flight to be made public.
Although sovereign states are immune to paying compensation to victims of international tragedies, nevertheless there are examples of many countries aiding families who need it so that they can go on living and can feed their children. These questions should be considered as well.
And, finally, the families of the victims would like to meet President Gorbachev and speak with him about that sad day, September 1st, 1983, when so many innocent lives were so thoughtlessly taken away.
With the passage of time the families of the victims of the tragedy have come to the understanding that through this sad event of their lives, their searches for answers to questions, and their search for the bodies of their loved ones, they can contribute to improving the safety of international air travel. The families have begun to contribute to this actively, participating in projects directed toward modification of industry rules and instruction concerning international air travel, and improving the system deciding responsibility (in the event of incidents on international lines - A. Sh). The families of the victims of the KAL-007 tragedy are helping the families of victims of other airline tragedies to cope with their grief and with the problems that arise.
The families of the KAL-007 victims were cheered by Vitalij Ignatenko's announcement about President Gorbachev's interest in resolving the problems connected with the tragedy that occurred on 1 September 1983 in the spirit of openness, cooperation, and glasnost, for the sake of peace on earth.
Having sent their article to Izvestia, the association's leaders asked that the article not be censored. This was an easy request... * * *
From the editors: At this point, we are interrupting for the time being the series of articles Andrej Illesh from Moscow and Aleksandr Shalnev from New York wrote based on the materials of the gathered during the journalistic investigation.
But people are continuing to call and send letters. Reporters are being invited a broad number of cities in the country. People want to tell what they know. Moreover, we are expecting an interested reaction from the Ministry of Defense, the KGB, and the MFA (1), for we are sure that these offices have key evidence concerning the Korean aircraft. Regardless of the response, even if it is denial or mere silence, we intend to report it to the readers.
We are sometimes reproached for inaccuracy and repetition. But a journalistic investigation is distinguished by the fact that it is largely unpredictable. It takes place before your eyes and the readers become participants. And with all the possible shortcomings of such an investigation, it has the indisputable advantage of openness (2). And this is most likely why the people who contact the editorial offices are those who are purging themselves of a burden which has been lying heavily on their souls for many years. Such a cleansing is the most important thing, but it ensures that you can never again used as a pawn in someone's game. A game which supposedly concerns the highest political or state interests. But in which human dignity is of no concern. Or even human life. All that is left is for us to repeat - the investigation continues.
(1) MFA - Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(2) Publicity or to transliterate, as is popular today, Glasnost.
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