Former North Korean spy Kim Hyon-Hui
Former North Korean spy Kim Hyon-Hui Reuters

Kim Hyon-hui lives in fear that North Korean agents will track her down and kill her.

The 51-year-old mother of two has good reasons to worry about Pyongyang – she was once an agent for North Korea but later defected to the South.

Kim, whose father was a diplomat and spent part of her childhood in Cuba, was recruited for espionage work while studying Japanese at the Pyongyang Foreign Language College.

During her career as a spy for the North Korean regime, she blew up a South Korean airliner, killing 115 people. That order came in 1987 from then-North Korean leader Kim Il-sung, who was determined to stop his bitter enemies in Seoul from hosting the 1998 Summer Olympic games.

In November 1987, while travelling under a fake Japanese passport, the beautiful Kim and another North Korean agent boarded Korean Air Flight 858 in Baghdad, placed a suitcase bomb in a locker, and escaped the plane in Abu Dhabi during a stopover.

The plane later blew up over the Andaman Sea off the coast of India, and everyone aboard perished.

"I was told by a senior officer that before the Seoul Olympics we would take down a South Korean airliner," Kim told the BBC.

"He said it would create chaos and confusion in South Korea. The mission would strike a severe blow for the revolution."

The two mass killers were subsequently captured in Bahrain. While her accomplice killed himself, Kim was arrested and taken to Seoul, where she was interrogated in an underground bunker.

"When I came down the steps of that aircraft [in Seoul], I didn't see anything," she told BBC. "I just looked at the ground. They had taped my mouth shut. I thought I was entering the den of the lion. I was sure they were going to kill me."

She finally confessed to her South Korea captors and said the orders to bomb the plane came directly from either Kim Il-sung or his son, Kim Jong-il.

“I [confessed] reluctantly," she noted. “I thought my family in North Korea would be in danger; it was a big decision to confess. But I began to realize it would be the right thing to do for the victims, for them to be able to understand the truth."

Sentenced to death by a South Korean court in 1989, Kim was pardoned by President Roh Tae-Woo, citing that she was merely a brainwashed puppet of the North Korean regime.

She subsequently married a former South Korean intelligence officer and gave birth to two children.

Kim also wrote an autobiography called “The Tears of My Soul” -- proceeds of which were donated to the families of the victims of Flight 858.

During her BBC interview, Kim also discussed the extreme reverence the North Korean people hold for the leaders as well as the current state of the isolated nation.

"In North Korea everything was about the kingdom of Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il," she said.

"Kim Il-sung was a godlike figure. Anything that was ordered by him could be justified. Any order would be carried out with extreme loyalty. You were ready to sacrifice your life."

Once a dedicated agent of Pyongyang, Kim has now completely altered her view of her native country.

"There is no other country like North Korea," she noted. "People outside can't understand. The whole country is set up to show loyalty to the Kim royal family. It's like a religion. People are so indoctrinated. There are no human rights, no freedoms. When I look back it makes me feel sad. Why did I have to be born in North Korea? Look at what it did to me."

She thinks the Kim family regime in North Korea may be nearing its end, however.

"North Korea is in a desperate situation," she says. "Discontent with [new leader] Kim Jong-un is so high; he has to put a lid on it. The only thing he has is nuclear weapons. That's why he has created this sense of war, to try to rally the population. He's doing business with his nuclear weapons."

Speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corp., she said the current North Korean leader is “inexperienced” and “struggling to gain complete control over the military and to win their loyalty.”

‘‘That’s why he’s doing so many visits to military bases, to firm up support,” she added.

“North Korea is a not a state, it’s a cult. North Korea is using its nuclear program to keep its people in line and to push South Korea and the United States for concessions."

Kim also does not know whatever became of her family in North Korea.

"I have heard that they were seen being taken away from Pyongyang to a labor camp," she told the BBC tearfully.