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U.S. Protester of N. Koreans' Plight Opens Fire, Hitting U.N. Building

October 04, 2002|MAGGIE FARLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

UNITED NATIONS — A gunman fired seven shots in front of the U.N. headquarters on Thursday, then scattered leaflets protesting the plight of North Koreans before being detained by security officials.

The man, identified as Steve Kim, entered U.N. grounds unnoticed until he started firing a .357-magnum revolver. At least two shots hit the building on the 18th and 20th floors, narrowly missing several U.N. employees, but no one was injured, according to U.N. security chief Michael McCann.

Kim, 56 or 57, seemed calm after he fired the gun, said Michael Hovey, who witnessed the incident on his way to a meeting in the building. "He threw the gun down, like he was disgusted, then walked to the wall and threw papers up in the air. Then he sat down and waited."

U.S. Secret Service agents who were part of a security detail for visiting Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides quickly apprehended Kim. They were joined moments later by United Nations security and State Department protective personnel who were on the site.

Security quickly closed the streets around the U.N. and locked down the building. Inside, the Security Council continued its meeting on disarmament in Iraq.

Kim apparently had been handing out leaflets to passersby before he jumped the hedge-covered wall. The papers were covered in tiny cramped handwriting in broken English and were addressed to "all people who love freedom and justice."

"In a shinning and civilized 21st century, most people in the world enjoying peace and freedom. North Korea however is groaning under the weight of starvation and dictatorial suppression." It was signed: "A citizen of UN, Steve Kim, Oct. 2, 2002."

Kim was questioned by New York City police officers and FBI agents before being transferred to FBI custody and taken out of U.N. headquarters 90 minutes after the shooting. According to FBI spokesman Jim Margolin, Kim is a naturalized U.S. citizen from Des Plaines, Ill., where he is a postal worker. He will be arraigned in federal court this morning.

Security chief McCann said the incident pointed out the need to enhance measures at the world body's headquarters. He said that the 6-foot-high fence can be easily scaled and that there are not enough guards to cover every foot of the U.N.'s sprawling grounds.

The security service had been asking for a reinforced fence for nearly 20 years, U.N. officials said, but only recently received funding for 36 additional officers, a backup fence and cameras.

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