Aviation News

June 18, 2011

South Korean Troops Try to Shoot Down Airliner After Mistaking it for North Korean Jet

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By: BNO News
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South Korean troops mistakenly opened fire at an Asiana Airlines passenger plane early Friday morning after misidentifying it as a North Korean military plane, the Yonhap news agency reported on Saturday.

Asiana 747-400 HL7428

This Asiana 747-400 (HL7428) transported the South Korean President to New York for the United Nations General Assembly in 2009. (Photo by Senga Butts)

The incident happened on the southern coast of Gyodong Island in Incheon, 80 kilometers (49 miles) west of Seoul, when two South Korean soldiers guarding the area spotted a large aircraft which they believed to be a North Korean military plane.

But the aircraft was in fact an Asiana Airlines Airbus A321 (HL7763) which was making its descent into Incheon International Airport, carrying 119 passengers and crew. The aircraft was flying from an airport in China.

“When the plane, which the guards said they had never seen before, was approaching, the guards misidentified it as a plane from the North Korean air force and shot at it,” a source told Yonhap.

According to the soldiers, who fired their K-2 rifles, the airplane appeared to be flying north of the normal route for passenger planes. Asiana denied those claims, saying there were no abnormalities.

Despite shots being fired at the passenger plane for about 10 minutes, no damage was reported as the plane was about 500 meters (0.3 mile) out of range of the K-2 rifles. The aircraft landed safely.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula, which is officially still at war, have been at critical since a North Korean torpedo fired from a midget submarine sank the ROKS Cheonan, a South Korean Navy ship carrying 104 people. The attack in March 2010 left 46 people killed.

And months later, North Korean forces bombarded the disputed Yeonpyeong Island, prompting South Korea to return fire at North Korea. The artillery engagement from the North left two South Korean civilians killed, while the South’s return fire killed at least five people in North Korea.