dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y



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31 MARCH 1970


Tokyo’s streets are deserted as millions watch the very first hijacking broadcast live on television. Nine Japanese Red Army members hijack a Japanese domestic flight to start the 84-hour long saga. They are all students, conservatively dressed in coats and ties and look for all the world like young office workers. But instead of briefcases they carry samurai swords, wielding them like warriors of old as they rush down the aisle. Their demand? To be flown to North Korea. Fighter planes accost the airliner
in the sky and escort it in the direction of an airport, which identifies itself from the control tower as Pyongyang. They look as though they might be North Korean planes, and perhaps that is what all or most of the passengers think they are. In actual fact, they are South Korean, and the airport is South Korea’s Gimpo International Airport, disguised as a North Korean air base for the occasion. Communist banners replace western flags, English signs are removed and two trucks of airborne troops in stolen North Korean uniforms roll in. Nobody on board asks any questions; South Korean skies look no different to North Korean ones. Floodlights are blazing as the planes approaches. It is not yet dark but soon will be, and perhaps the blaze of light will help to fool the eye and blot out the view beyond the airfield. In front of the plane official greeters wave “Welcome to Pyongyang” placards. Loudspeakers blare out the same message. Soldiers with smiling faces and communist insignia take up positions alongside the plane as if forming a guard of honour. They are joined by girls carrying bouquets of flowers. The hijackers are suspicious. The set-up turns sour when one of the hijackers turns on his transistor radio and hears American jazz. The hijackers refuse to disembark. The waiting game commences. The aircraft cabin gets unbearably cramped, the toilets have reached their overflow point. The men, tied to their seats, are extremely uncomfortable and the women help them by mopping their brows. Men with no women nearby are out of luck. A new word enters the Japanese vocabulary: “Haijakku”.