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Home > Media Reiews > News Review Last Updated: 14:52 03/09/2007
News Review #74: October 17, 2002

Tears and Hugs as 5 Abducted Japanese Go Home to Visit

Reviewed By Hitoshi URABE

"Tears and Hugs as 5 Abducted Japanese Go Home to Visit"
(by James Brooke ) New York Times


The 14th Asian Games was held in Busan, Korea from September 28 to October 14. The Asian Games was first assembled in 1951, when delegations from 11 countries gathered to compete in New Delhi. After half a century in Busan, close to ten thousand athletes and officials from 44 member countries and regions participated.

The Asian Games is naturally a big event for those athletes looking to attain their recognition, and for the local community for economic effects it would bring. It is, however, unlike The Olympic Games, a local event, somewhat like the Commonwealth Games, which could attract little interest from outside the circle.

What was phenomenal in this year's event, however, was for the first time North Korea was represented officially on the South Korea's soil. As an unprecedented measure, North Korean flags were allowed to be put up during the event in the stadiums, despite it had been, and still is, illegal to carry the flag elsewhere in the country and is a subject of immediate arrest.

North Korea as a result sent 679 athletes, officials, and supporters, but it was not the size that astonished the people in Busan. It was the cheering squad of almost 300 members they also sent, made up exclusively of young women in their teens and early twenties. It was alleged that many of the members belong to famous troupe of dancers in North Korea. Since their arrival at Busan port, Korean media and the people swarmed to the dock every day, watching the ladies as they left and returned to the ship where they were lodging.

It has been reported that the ladies were making more media stories in South Korea than the athletes they were sent to support, and local newspapers printed their pictures almost everyday, reporting their every movement. They had also become the number one topic in private conversations.

These North Korean cheerleaders seemed to have a significant effect in changing the sentiment of South Korea's people. After watching the ladies' performance along with accompanying brass band also from the North, a report writes that a spectator said his animosity towards the North after the June 29 naval clash in the Yellow Sea had all but vanished.

There are very few comments maintaining calmness in South Korea in this respect. Among the few, a commentator of the Korea Herald wrote, "I could easily guess North Korea's intention in dispatching an all-female cheering squad to the South, and what is happening here now seems to fully serve the North Korean purpose."

The article introduced above reports the scene of reunion of five Japanese citizens, abducted by North Korea a quarter of a century ago, and their families. The scene and the successive press conference were covered live by all major TV networks to reflect people's interest in the matter.

A family member at a press conference said that after the reunion, "the long 24 years seemed somehow a bit shorter." This is a comment out of very personal emotions and it should be fully respected. They have the perfect right to feel and express their feelings after all the depressed years they had to go through.

Having said that, Japan as the nation should not be misled by their expressions of relief. There is, of course, a possibility that North Korea had really changed their policy and modus operandi overnight after half a century of unaccommodative stance toward the outside world. There is a possibility that they really regret the abductions, along with other malevolent doings. But people know in general terms that these things rarely occur in a real world, and North Korea has been recognized to tell untruths in a number of occasions.

While aspiring to establish a climate where nations and regions in this region on the globe could seek mutual prosperity in peace, it is unacceptable to put our country to a risk along the way. We should still, at least for a while, not forget that North Korea have abducted our citizens, shot missiles over our land, and attacked our coast guard with heavy military armaments. At the same time, we must be aware that they are very tactical, as evidenced by the dispatch of a whole troop of young women to Busan to soften peoples' feelings, with success. We should be careful to observe what they might have up the sleeve. But then, there is perhaps no reason to object, if North Korea suggests sending a troop of cheerleaders to Japan. It might be interesting to see what sort of effect it would have on Japanese people in viewing North Korea.

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