TOKYO, February 16 (Itar-Tass) —— North Korean Trade Minister Kim Pong Chol and four high-ranking officials died in the crash of a helicopter, which was carrying gifts from the North Korean leadership to a remote island. The officials were to bring the presents to the island on the occasion of the 70th birth anniversary of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, who died last December, the South Korean website reported referencing reliable sources in North Korea. The ceremony to present the gifts was to be recorded for broadcasting on the central North Korean television.
The tragedy occurred on February 14 on the Sun Do islet not far from the Chinese border. The helicopter was reported to hit the rock by the tail and crashed on the ground during the landing. The crew and the TV film crew succeeded in getring out of the helicopter. However, then the helicopter exploded and the trade minister, the head of the trade agency of the Phyungan-Pukdo Province and three other officials died in the blast.
The funerals of the air crash victims was delayed, because North Korea is holding pompous festivities and mass gatherings on the occasion of the 70th birth anniversary of the late father Kim Jong Il of the incumbent North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.