SAN FRANCISCO -- A teenage Korean boy who told this newspaper that he had been on Asiana Airlines Flight 214 when it crashed at San Francisco International Airport was not a passenger on the downed plane and did not have any connection to the tragedy that struck the Bay Area on Saturday, according to an official from the Korean Consulate.
Jeong Han Kim, 17, arrived in the United States in March, said Martin Seo, consular assistant to the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in San Francisco.
Seo said that Kim had completed an English language program in Santa Clara and on Sunday had plans to fly out of San Francisco to Korea. But at the airport, Kim's passport was lost or stolen and he could not board his plane. His mother contacted the consulate and officials intervened to help Kim file a police report and rearrange his travel.
Kim then paid for a cab to the consulate in San Francisco, where officials provided him with a temporary passport so he could return home.
Kim was outside the Korean Consulate late Sunday afternoon when this newspaper interviewed him. He identified himself as a survivor of the plane crash. The interview lasted about 12 minutes, during which time Kim responded to several questions about the plane crash, saying that he sat in the front of the plane, escaped down the slide and suffered only a broken toe, although he lost most of his belongings and needed new shoes. He said he had come to the consulate to obtain a new passport and arrange a hotel stay for the night.
Pointing to a language barrier, Seo said he believes Kim misunderstood questions from a reporter and photographer. Seo said most of what was reported based on that interview is inconsistent with statements Kim made to Korean consulate officials.
According to the consulate, Kim boarded a United Airlines flight to Korea early Monday and the teen could not be reached for comment.
Contact Heather Somerville at 925-977-8418. Follow her at Twitter.com/heathersomervil.