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Home > Media Reiews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #161: September 18, 2003

Japan-N. Korea relations hit year-long low

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Japan-N. Korea relations hit year-long low "
(AP,AFP) Straits Times,4386,210411,00.html


If a democratic nation has the last thing to do, it is protection of its citizens, of their properties and their lives, from the villains only a nation equipped to undertake such a task could handle.

What, then, should a government do if its people's rights are deprived and their lives are endangered, not from their free choice but through a crime, as defined in the land at the time the acts are committed?

Until a year ago, abductions of Japanese citizens by the North Korean regime did not exist, at least officially, for Japan's government. The missing people were classified simply as 'missing', and the government did not even ask North Korea if they had any knowledge of them. This was because the government was afraid of a backlash, from North Korea, of course, but in reality from domestic sectors that were sympathetic to the rogue regime rather than their own countrymen and women.

Notably, Social Democratic Party, formerly called the Social Party of Japan which had been the major opposition for quite a while, was at the forefront in what seemed as representing the interest of North Korea in Japan's political and social scenes. They had insisted, and perhaps truly believed, that North Korea would never commit anything malicious to Japan and its people.

In a democratic society where free vote is in fact in effect such as Japan, any political opinion should be viable, and a party based upon it. Especially as a party elected to be the major opposition, the policies of the Social Party would naturally have certain effects on the direction of the country as a whole. Since bureaucrats are by law prohibited to take any political position, the consequence was for them to take into account the views of the ruling and also the major opposition parties in conducting their assigned roles.

Thus, when the families of those abducted visited local polices, they were simply ignored for the reason that there were no 'evidences' of crime such as kidnapping. When the family members tried to approach the members of the Social Party, as the party had always claimed they had special and amicable relationship with the North Korean regime, they met with a harsh refusal by the senior members of the party to just even meet them, while on their backs, those party officials referred to the family members in ways just short of calling them liars and troublemakers.

Even the Liberal Democratic Party, the long ruling group was either somewhat sympathetic to the claims of North Korea, or tried to avoid the issue altogether. The former Prime Minister Mori, just before Mr Koizumi succeeded the office, once suggested of seeking ways to the abductees, if there had been such incidents at all, to be returned to Japan via some neutral state so as not to embarrass North Korea.

Then the paradigm shifted a year ago on September 17, 2002, when, upon Prime Mister Koizumi's visit to Pyongyang, their leader Kim Jon-Il admitted that in fact there were kidnappings committed by agencies of the state itself.

It had been, and it still is, a tragedy for the abductees and their families, toward which it is only natural for Japanese people to show sympathy. At the same time, Japanese people began to sense infuriation among themselves, toward the bureaucrats who were arrogant and ignorant, politicians for their lies and cowardly attitudes, and toward people themselves for having been naive and ignorant to all this.

Not only the feelings toward North Korea turned sour, but the people's minds also became overcast by the sense of lassitude and impotence, which has since led the national sentiment to the direction never experienced for the past half a century. This sentiment is naturally being reflected in the attitudes of the government, which has undoubtedly induced certain anxiety in some sectors outside Japan.

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