South Korea's spy agency has admitted carrying out the 1973 abduction of Kim Dae-jung, an opposition leader who later became the president and a Nobel peace prize winner.
The confession by the National Intelligence Service on Wednesday came after a civilian-led "truth committee" investigated a number of the country's most notorious incidents.
"This committee confirms that its precursor, the Korea Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA), undertook a kidnapping in Japan, and expresses deep regret over this," the report said.
Kim was abducted from a Tokyo hotel room two years after he narrowly lost a presidential election to Park Chung-hee.
He was blindfolded and taken to the port city of Osaka where a group of agents put him on a boat and tied him to a cross-shaped wooden board while debating ways to sink the vessel.
"There is physical evidence to support the possibility that, up to a certain point, the plan had been pursued as an assassination," the National Intelligence Service (NIS) report said.
The US Central Intelligence Agency and Japanese officials learned of the plot and the US is believed to have sent an aircraft to find the boat, intelligence officials and Kim himself have said.
Kim's life was spared after the US aircraft caught the South Korean agents in the act. He was later taken to South Korea and placed under house arrest by Park's pro-American government.
|"There is physical evidence to support the possibility that, up to a certain point, the plan had been pursued as an assassination" |
South Korea's National Intelligence Service
"It is our judgment that President Park ... at least gave a passive approval," the NIS panel said, but added it could not prove that Park directly ordered the abduction.
The military-backed leader ruled the country for 18 years after changing the constitution in 1972 to perpetuate his rule. He was assassinated in 1979.
Twenty-five years after the abduction, Kim was elected president in 1997 before winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his efforts to achieve reconciliation with North Korea.
Choi Kyung-hwan, Kim's secretary, said on Wednesday that the investigation's outcome was unsatisfactory.
"It's obvious that the kidnapping was carried out with the aim of killing," Choi said in a statement. "The highest person who directed the kidnapping was the then president."
The agency's six-volume, 3,300-page report also confirmed that North Korean agents blew up a Korean Airlines plane over the Andaman Sea off Myanmar in 1987 killing all 115 people aboard.
Two North Koreans were captured afterwards in Bahrain, but the male agent committed suicide.
His female companion was taken to Seoul where she confessed that they destroyed the plane on orders from Pyongyang to try to scare away foreigners from the 1988 summer Olympics in Seoul.