North Korea Punished for 1972 Attack in Israel

A US court has fined North Korea $378 million for a 1972 terrorist attack in Israel that killed 26.

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Maayana Miskin, | updated: 20:48

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il
Israel news photo: Republic of Korea

A United States federal court in Puerto Rico has found North Korea liable in a 1972 attack at Israel's Lod Airport (now Ben Gurion Airport), and has ordered the country to pay $378 million in damages to two families who filed suit.

The attack was carried out by members of the Japanese Red Army on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; the terrorists were funded, trained and supported by North Korean officials, including members of its intelligence service. The recent verdict is the first to officially recognize North Korea's responsibility.

"As a matter of its official policy, North Korea provided training, resources, weapons and safe haven to the JRA and the PFLP during the period relevant to this case,” the verdict stated. “Defendants ran roughly 30 terrorist training camps from 1968 to 1988 within North Korea's borders; those camps specialized in terrorist and guerilla warfare training.” More than 10,000 terrorists trained at the camps, the court noted.

North Korea's support “was crucial for the JRA's survival,” the court said.

The plaintiffs were represented by several attorneys, among them Nitzana Darshan-Leitner of the Israel Law Center. Darshan-Leitner praised the verdict, saying, “For the first time, the terror victims are showing North Korea that there is a cost involved for its blatant support for terrorism.”

The Lod Airport attack killed 26 people, 17 of them United States citizens from Puerto Rico who had come as tourists. Among the eight Israeli victims of the attack was leading scientist Aharon Katzir, whose brother Ephraim later became the president of Israel.

The suit was brought by relatives of Carmelo Calderon-Molina, who was murdered in the attack, and Pablo Tirado-Ayala, who was wounded.

Two of the three terrorists who perpetrated the attack were killed while carrying it out. The third, Kozo Okamoto, was captured and jailed in Israel. He was released in 1985 in a prisoner release deal, and moved to Lebanon, where he converted to Islam. He has been granted political asylum in the country due to his participation in attacks on Israel and subsequent prison term.

North Korea continues to assist pro-terrorist Middle East regimes and terror organizations worldwide. The country is suspected of selling weapons destined for Hamas and Hizbullah to Iran, and of collaborating with Iran on its missile program. North Korea has developed nuclear bombs, and is believed to have helped Syria in an attempt to build a nuclear installation.