Ex-spy for Kim Jong Un says North Korea will use Olympics 'as a weapon' to build nuclear arsenal

DAEGU CITY, South Korea — She’s a killer with a soft voice and a sharp blue suit. And not just any killer.

Kim Hyon-hui is a mass murderer, a former spy for North Korea who blew up a passenger jet in 1987 on orders from Kim Jong Un’s father.

She says he wanted to sabotage the 1988 Seoul Summer Games.

And with the Olympics returning to South Korea in just over two weeks in PyeongChang, she's warning the world not to trust Kim Jong Un. She sees dark motives behind his decision to send athletes to the Winter Olympics.

According to Kim Hyon-hui, the regime hopes to try to separate South Korea from its ally, the United States, and eventually to reunify the Korean Peninsula under Communist rule.

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Members of Special Weapon and Tactics (SWAT) take part in a security drill, ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
A South Korean police officer takes part in a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Vehicles explode during a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
South Korean police officers take part in a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Members of Special Weapon and Tactics (SWAT) take part in a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Members of the South Korean Special Warfare Command take part in a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
South Korean government safety officers and firefighters take part in a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Members of Special Weapon and Tactics (SWAT) take part in a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
South Korean firefighters take part in a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Members of Special Weapon and Tactics (SWAT) take part in a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Members of Special Weapon and Tactics (SWAT) and the Special Warfare Command take part in a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
A South Korean police officer takes part in a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
A South Korean army helicopter flies over the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony during a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Members of Special Weapon and Tactics (SWAT) take part in a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Members of the Special Warfare Command take part in a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
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"North Korea is using the Olympics as a weapon," Kim Hyon-hui said. "It’s trying to escape the sanctions by holding hands with South Korea, trying to break free from international isolation."

She described the joint Korean Olympic team as "a publicity stunt for Kim Jong Un.

The Korean War ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty in 1953, meaning the neighbors officially remain at war. Friction has built over the past year, fueled by the North's nuclear and missile tests and apocalyptic rhetoric from Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump. Kim has repeatedly threatened to destroy the South along with the U.S., while Trump has threatened Pyongyang with "fire and fury."

Thousands of North Korean artillery pieces stand ready around 30 miles away from Seoul, a city of 10 million people.

Since taking office in May, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has made it clear he plans to re-engage with North Korea — an approach at odds with the Trump administration’s hardline stance of sanctions and the threat of a pre-emptive strike.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster have both warned that North Korea must not be allowed “to drive a wedge” between the allies.

'I was trained only to take orders like a robot'

Kim Hyon-hui was a 19-year-old university student in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, when she was handpicked to be a spy.

She trained for years before her first mission in 1987 — carry a bomb aboard a South Korean jet and blow it up. The aim was to persuade the world that South Korea was too dangerous to send Olympic athletes the following summer.

She was 25 on Nov. 29, 1987, when she boarded Korea Air Flight 858 in Baghdad and loaded her bomb into the overhead bin of the Boeing jet, and took her seat in row seven alongside her supposed father, an older North Korean agent.

They both got off at a stopover in Abu Dhabi before the plane continued to Seoul. It never made it, exploding over the Andaman Sea, killing all 115 on board, most of them South Koreans.

“When I was given the mission, my role was to disrupt the Seoul Olympics,” she told NBC News. “North Korea thought that hosting the Olympics would permanently divide the Koreas ... and make South Korea more economically powerful than the North. So I was ordered to harm the ‘South Korean puppets’ by hitting the flight.”

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Every missile launch conducted by North Korea in 2017
This photo taken on February 12, 2017 and released on February 13 by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows the launch of a surface-to-surface medium long-range ballistic missile Pukguksong-2 at an undisclosed location. North Korea said on February 13 it had successfully tested a new ballistic missile, triggering a US-led call for an urgent UN Security Council meeting after a launch seen as a challenge to President Donald Trump. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA via KNS / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS / THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. / (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - This undated picture released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) via KNS on March 7, 2017 shows the launch of four ballistic missiles by the Korean People's Army (KPA) during a military drill at an undisclosed location in North Korea. Nuclear-armed North Korea launched four ballistic missiles on March 6 in another challenge to President Donald Trump, with three landing provocatively close to America's ally Japan. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. / (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A man walks past a television screen showing file footage of a North Korean missile launch, at a railway station in Seoul on March 22, 2017. A new North Korean missile test failed on March 22, the South and US said, two weeks after Pyongyang launched four rockets in what it called a drill for an attack on American bases in Japan. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
A man walks past a television screen showing file footage of a North Korean missile launch, at a railway station in Seoul on April 5, 2017. Nuclear-armed North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan on April 5, just ahead of a highly-anticipated China-US summit at which Pyongyangs accelerating atomic weapons programme is set to top the agenda. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
A North Korean navy truck carries the 'Pukkuksong' submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) during a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of country's founding father, Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang, April 15, 2017. North Korea has escalated tests of its SLBM programme in the last year. Whilst the isolated country is not yet believed to have an operational submarine capable of carrying more than one missile at the time, its enemies are worried that a fully-functional SLBM would make tracking and intercepting a North Korean missile launch and the submarine from which it was fired very difficult. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY SEARCH "PARADE WID" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
This picture taken on May 14, 2017 and released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 15 shows a test launch of the ground-to-ground medium long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 at an undisclosed location. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. / (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO - The scene of the intermediate-range ballistic missile Pukguksong-2's launch test in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) May 22, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS/File photo ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
People watch a television broadcasting a news report on North Korea firing what appeared to be a short-range ballistic missile, at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, May 29, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - JUNE 08: People watch a television broadcast reporting the North Korean missile launch at the Seoul Railway Station on June 8, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea. According to the South Korean military, North Korea launched several cruise missiles from the east coast toward the ocean on June 8, 2017 in its fourth missile test in four weeks. The launch came amid the international tension surrounding the policy on North Korea, as a day before the newly elected South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, announced the suspension of the deployment of an controversial American missile defence system, and less than a week before the United Nations Security Council expanded the sanctions against North Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
This picture taken and released on July 4, 2017 by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows the test-fire of the intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 at an undisclosed location. North Korea declared on July 4 it had successfully tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile -- a watershed moment in its push to develop a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the mainland United States. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. / (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
A photo taken on July 6, 2017 shows a mass dance event as part of celebrations marking the July 4 launch of the Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, in Pyongyang. Fireworks lit up the sky over Pyongyang's Juche Tower as North Korea celebrated its launch of intercontinental ballistic missile, a milestone in its decades-long weapons drive. On July 4 -- the United States' Independence Day -- it launched a Hwasong-14 rocket that analysts and overseas officials said had a range of up to 8,000 kilometres, which would put Alaska and Hawaii within reach. / AFP PHOTO / KIM Won-Jin (Photo credit should read KIM WON-JIN/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - This July 28, 2017 picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 29, 2017 shows North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Hwasong-14 being lauched at an undisclosed place in North Korea. Kim Jong-Un boasted of North Korea's ability to strike any target in the US after a second ICBM test that weapons experts said could even bring New York into range - in a potent challenge to US President Donald Trump. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIS KNS / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. TO GO WITH NKorea-nucelar-missile-Japan-SKorea-politics, FOCUS by Shingo Ito and Park Chan-Kyong / (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - AUGUST 26: People watch a television broadcast reporting the North Korean missile launch at the Seoul Railway Station on August 26, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea. North Korea launched several ballistic missiles into the East Sea resuming a provocative act in a month despite Washington's diplomacy-first approach toward the belligerent regime. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - This picture from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) taken on August 29, 2017 and released on August 30, 2017 shows North Korea's intermediate-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 lifting off from the launching pad at an undisclosed location near Pyongyang. Nuclear-armed North Korea said on August 30 that it had fired a missile over Japan the previous day, the first time it has ever acknowledged doing so. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by STR has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [at an undisclosed location near Pyongyang] instead of [in Pyongyang]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 15: People watch a television broadcast reporting the North Korean missile launch at the Seoul Railway Station on September 15, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea. North Korea launched a ballistic missile over Japan just days after the U.N. Security Council adopted new sanctions against the regime over its sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
People watch a television screen showing a file video footage of North Korea's missile launch, at a railway station in Seoul on November 29, 2017. North Korea test fired what appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile on November 29, in a major challenge to US President Donald Trump after he slapped fresh sanctions on Pyongyang and declared it a state sponsor of terrorism. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
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She has no doubt who was behind the mission: Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, who later became leader of the North.

“My mission was personally signed by Kim Jong Il," she said. "At the time, he oversaw all matters relating to South Korea. Living in North Korea is like being in huge prison and being treated like slaves. You didn’t question an order.

"I was brainwashed that giving my life carrying out a mission ordered by the Kim family is an honor. So I took the mission thinking that the bombing will bring revolution in Korea and will contribute to the reunification of the Koreas.”

Kim Hyon-hui had no hesitation or doubts, but claims she experienced an unusual rush of feeling on the plane.

“The moment I boarded the flight I was thinking, 'This is an enemy state,'" she recounted. "But then, placing the bomb, I was nervous, anxious, scared of being caught. I had a brief moment thinking that all the people in this plane will die, but I was frightened to even have such feelings. I wasn’t supposed to have such feelings. I was trained only to take orders like a robot. I tried to get rid of the feelings by thinking that for the sake of reunification these people had to be sacrificed. In North Korea, you can’t have these doubts, because if you do, it means your ideology has been corrupted and you’ll be executed or sent to a prison camp.”

And then came the only moment in a 70-minute interview in which she betrayed any hint of emotion.

Asked if she could still see the faces of the people she killed, Kim Hyon-hui replied, “Not really.”

But her eyes filled and she blinked repeatedly. “Every year I try to visit the memorial to the victims to make an apology,” she said, “and to pray for their souls.”

She succeeded in blowing up the plane, but failed to escape. Kim Hyon-hui was intercepted by police in Bahrain who pulled a cyanide capsule in a cigarette from her mouth before she could kill herself, as her fellow spy did.

After more than a week of interrogation she confessed and was sentenced to death in South Korea.

But its president pardoned her, on the grounds that she had been brainwashed by Pyongyang, freeing her into a lifetime of protection.

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1. While Kim Jong Un's birthday on January 8 is a national holiday, it is unknown exactly how old the North Korean leader is. It's widely believed he is in his early-mid thirties. In 2016, the U.S. Treasury Department listed his birth year as 1984 when they placed sanctions on North Korea.

 (KCNA via REUTERS)

2. Kim Jong Un is the world's youngest leader, according to the date listed by the Treasury. 

(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

3. Kim Jong Un is very passionate about basketball. He is reportedly a big fan of Michael Jordan and has a friendly relationship with Jordan's former Chicago Bulls teammate Dennis Rodman. Rodman has visited the secluded nation multiple times and even sang him "Happy Birthday" before an exhibition game in Jan. 2014. 

(REUTERS/KCNA)

4. Kim Jong Un reportedly has a love for smoking, whiskey and cheese

(KCNA/via Reuters)

5. Kim Jong Un's older half-brother Kim Jong Nam was killed in Feb. 2017 by two women who smeared VX nerve agent on his face at an airport in Kuala Lumpur. The women were arrested following his death. Many believe the hit was directed by North Korea. 

(KCNA; REUTERS)

6. Kim Jong Un has two college degrees. One is in physics from Kim il Sung University and another as an Army officer obtained from the Kim Il Sung Military University.

(KCNA/REUTERS)

7. Kim Jong Un attended boarding school in Switzerland. It is widely disputed how much time he spent at the school. Most reports say he was abroad from 1998-2000. 

(KCNA/REUTERS)

8. Kim Jong Un is the only general in the world that does not have any military experience. 

(KCNA/REUTERS)

9. He married Ri Sol Ju in 2009. The couple has at least one daughter named Ju Ae. 

(KCNA/REUTERS)

10. Kim Jong Un had his uncle Jang Song Thaek arrested and executed for treachery in 2013. 

(REUTERS/Kyodo)

11. Kim Jong Un hand selected North Korea's first all-female music group -- Moranbong Band. They made their debut in 2012. 

(ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)

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Even 30 years on, she is surrounded by a group of bodyguards and fears for her life.

“I think I am on a list to be assassinated," said Kim Hyon-hui, who is now aged 54 and married to a South Korean.

North Korea boycotted the 1988 Olympic Games, but it’s taking part in the PyeongChang Games, sending 22 athletes and hundreds of supporters, officials, musicians and journalists.

However, Kim Hyon-hui believes the country's eventual goal is to get rid of American troops from the Korean Peninsula and predicted "North Korea will start its provocations again" in the months following the Olympics.

She added: "North Korea won’t give up its nuclear weapons. They’re its lifeline.”

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