A bomb blast killed five Koreans and injured at least 19 others at Seoul's Kimpo International Airport on Sunday, six days before the Asian Games get under way here. Thirteen of the injured were described as being in serious condition.
National Police Director Kang Min Chang blamed what he called the "northern puppets"--South Korea's conventional reference to the Communist North Korean government--for staging the terrorist attack to disrupt the Asian Games, the largest international event in South Korea's history.
North Korea has announced that it will boycott the games, which start Saturday and run through Oct. 5.
The Asian Games have been widely billed by South Korea as a "dress rehearsal" for the 1988 Olympics, which will be held here.
"We consider that it was an act of North Korea or impure elements instigated by the northern Communists," Kang told a press conference. "There is no doubt the explosion was carried out in a . . . barbarous scheme to disrupt the success of the sports event."
Planted in Trash Can
No arrests were made. But Kang said the explosion resembled the October, 1983, bombing in Rangoon, Burma, aimed at visiting South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan, in which 18 South Koreans were killed, four of them Cabinet ministers. Burma officially blamed North Korea for that bombing and severed diplomatic ties with Pyongyang.
Sunday's explosion, Kang said, also was similar to an incident in the provincial city of Taegu, 170 miles southeast of Seoul, in September, 1983, in which a bomb exploded on the doorstep of the U.S. cultural center, killing a Korean student and injuring five others. Seoul blamed North Korea for that incident, too.
Kang said the device was planted in a trash can outside the first-floor glass wall of the three-story terminal and exploded about 3:12 p.m.
The official New China News Agency in Peking reported the blast but offered no comment. Athletes from China, which maintains no diplomatic relations with South Korea, are participating in the games. An advance party of 154 Chinese arrived on a charter flight to Kimpo on Friday, the first direct flight between the two capitals since the 1950-53 Korean War.
Kang offered no details about the explosive device, but a television station here said that it was a bomb made of TNT.
Although all of the victims were South Koreans, according to police, the blast went off on a sidewalk that all international passengers use to get to a taxi loading zone.
The dead were identified as a 41-year-old electrician, a 21-year-old university student, a 42-year-old doctor and two women whose ages were not known.
The blast shattered seven large glass doors and windows at an entrance to the ground-level waiting room. People screamed and rushed for cover. Witnesses said the blast threw three people through the plate-glass windows.
Combat police armed with automatic rifles took up positions around the scene to keep people away. Reporters also were barred.
Operations at the airport, however, were generally not interfered with. Arriving passengers were not informed of the blast, and Korean women wearing traditional pastel-colored dresses pinned flowers on all arriving Asian Games guests as if nothing had happened.
Security at the airport and throughout Seoul has been increased for the games. South Korea's entire 100,000-member police force was put on full alert in August to guard against any terrorist attacks and to tackle planned demonstrations by anti-government students.
Both U.S. military commanders here and South Korean officials have been saying for months that North Korea might try to sabotage the games to deny South Korea the public relations triumph it hopes for.
The United States still bases about 40,000 troops in this country, 33 years after the end of the Korean War, in which North Korea tried to reunify the country by force with help from the Soviet Union and China.
Times staff writer Andrew Horvat, in Tokyo, contributed to this story.