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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #219: May 28, 2004

Japan to urge US not to prosecute husband of N.Korea kidnap victim

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Japan to urge US not to prosecute husband of N.Korea kidnap victim"
(AFP) CnannelNewsAsia


It has been a week since Prime Minister made a trip to Pyongyang to meet Kim Jon-il, but the evaluation of his visit is still very split among the Japanese people.

Initially, the family members of those who had previously been told to be dead by North Korea responded by expressing their anger toward Mr Koizumi for not obtaining any new information as to the fate of their kidnapped loved ones. The media conveyed the furious voices of the family members, which seemed to set the initial tone of assessment for the Prime Minister's trip. Majority of commentators appearing on TVs and then on newspapers condemned Mr Koizumi, virtually everyone for the PM being too weak in negotiating with and too lenient in offering humanitarian aid to North Korea.

It was a peculiar sight, in a way, as many of the commentators who has had strongly accused Mr Koizumi for his hawkish stance in sending SDF troops to Iraq and visiting Yasukuni shrine began charging Mr Koizumi for his being too forgiving and tolerant toward the starving people in North Korea.

But as the hours and days went by, it was the general public who began to see other facets of the event. Obviously, the visit did not, and was not able to from the outset, satisfy every desire of Japanese people, but many began to recognize the meaning of various issues that were tabled at the meeting. From having North Korea agree to further discussions toward mutual understanding, to the actual returning of five children of previously returned abductees, people credited scores accordingly for the PM. Thus, while individual views are still widely split, if they were to be averaged, people have evaluated the performance of the PM significantly better than one might call it lukewarm. This has been reflected in various polls which found general support by the people for Mr Koizumi.

One of the immediate issues still pending is the family of Ms Soga, an abductee returned to Japan a year and a half ago, whose husband, Charles Robert Jenkins and two daughters, are told to have refused to come to Japan despite direct attempt of persuasion by Mr Koizumi in Pyongyang.

Mr Jenkins is explained to be a deserter from the US Army in 1965 when he was assigned to South Korea, from where he crossed the demilitarized zone to the North. It has been reported that Mr Jenkins was afraid of, if went to Japan, being handed over to the US authorities for his arrest and court-marshal. Legal experts suspect either Japan-U.S. Status-of-forces Agreement, which defines the status of U.S. service members in Japan, or the Japan-U.S. Extradition Treaty could be applied if Mr Jenkins comes to Japan and the US asks he be transferred to US custody. How it would really be treated could not be known until the case in fact appears before the Japanese court for its decision, but there has been comments by Japan's senior government official that the possibility is high for the Japanese government to become obliged to hand over Mr Jenkins to the US, if such a case materializes.

One thing to keep in mind, although not being discussed openly as it seems too cruel for Ms Soga, is that if Mr Jenkins is determined not to leave North Korea out of his free will, the Japanese government has no means, or the right, to force him to.

Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications