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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Plane Delay Keeps Envoy From KAL Memorial

The South Korean ambassador's attempt to attend a ceremony on Sakhalin island honoring 269 people who died when Soviet warplanes shot down a Korean airliner 10 years ago has run foul of Aeroflot scheduling problems.


Ambassador Sook Kuy Kim finally took off for the ceremony in Nevelsk, on Sakhalin island at 2: 30 P. M. Tuesday, but only after spending the best part of 24 hours stranded at two of Moscow's least appealing airports -- Domodedovo and Vnukovo.


Chul Young Jung, the embassy's first secretary, said in a telephone interview from Vnukovo airport that he doubted the ambassador would make it on time to see a Russian monument to the victims unveiled on Wednesday.


The flight should have left Domodedovo at 5 P. M, Monday, but was delayed due to fuel shortages. After another flight at 4 A. M. was canceled, the ambassador was shuttled to Vnukovo for a flight that finally took off at 2: 30 P. M. after further delays.


The question of responsibility for the 1983 downing of flight KAL 007 has been a long-time irritant in relations between Moscow and Seoul. On Monday the issue resurfaced when a Russian government investigation found the airliner's pilots, and not the former Soviet Union, at fault.


The victim's families, a Korean Air Lines representative and an official from the Korean Transportation Ministry are due to attend the ceremony where a stone monument will be unveiled, according to Jung.


Recent news reports from the site -- about 55 kilometers from where the Boeing 747 crashed into the sea -- have said that the main part of the memorial has yet to be built. The area is reportedly littered with cables and used tires, but little else.


South Korean officials said Tuesday they would continue to appeal to Russia to compensate the families of victims who died, despite Monday's findings by the Russian investigative commission, Reuters reported from Seoul.


The commission, chaired by President Boris Yeltsin's chief of staff Sergei Filatov, said that the Korean pilots made gross errors by wandering far off course into Soviet airspace.


Wha-Tae Chung, the consul general for the Korean Embassy in Moscow said Tuesday that an investigation by the International Civil Aviation Organization concluded in June that the Soviet fighter had not properly warned the KAL flight.


"The report says that Russia must fulfill its international obligation", Chung said. "We have not received Russia's official position, but we have proposed negotiations with the Foreign Ministry". The Foreign Ministry declined to comment Tuesday.


Chung said his government had requested compensation for both the loss of the aircraft as well as for the lives of the passengers. Everyone on board the aircraft was killed.


In a separate development, three Russian Navy ships cruised into the southern port of Pusan on Tuesday in the first Russian goodwill port call to South Korea in 89 years, The Associated Press reported.


The ship's sailors are due to fly black flags of mourning and observe one minute of silence Wednesday, to pay their respects to those who died on KAL 007.