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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #228: July 6, 2004

Japan abductee family reunion set for July 9

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Japan abductee family reunion set for July 9"


The article reports that Ms Soga, abducted by North Korea in 1978 and returned to Japan in October 2002, was given an opportunity to meet her family, her husband and two daughters, in Jakarta on Friday, 9th. The article also cites some critics' allegation that the meeting was set up so as to boost support for the LDP led by Prime Minister Koizumi in the upper house election coming up on 11th.

As an obvious response to the question asked by reporters, Mr Koizumi denied the accusation and said, "It has nothing to do with the election. It is a positive step that comes in line with implementing the Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Declaration over the nuclear, missile and abduction issues."

If the critics' assumption was made under the inference that any act of a politician is aimed at winning an election, there is no doubt about it. But things may not be so simple.

It is in fact difficult to imagine that the government planned to make the announcement and the reunion aiming at the election, as; for one thing, it has been negotiated with one of the most formidable in the diplomatic arena, North Korea. It would also not benefit the LDP in any way if, in order to avoid such accusation, the meeting were to be postponed after the election, as it would not serve the desires of Ms Soga, and could cause a severe backlash of the people. In addition, there is a political risk involved in the outcome of the family reunion in Jakarta, that whether it would succeed the way many Japanese people wish it to.

Asked about the meeting in Jakarta, leaders of the opposition parties made very careful comments, such as, "it is a wonderful news (period)" by Mr Okada of the DPJ or "it is nice, and we do not intend to make a fuss over its relation with the election" by Mr Shii of the Communist Party. The cautious words indicate the politically delicate and fragile nature of the issue.

The largest risk and uncertainty lies in the possibility of a gap between the Japanese peoples' naive expectations and the intentions of Ms Soga's husband, Charles Jenkins. Charles Jenkins is an alleged U.S. Army deserter and if handed over to U.S. authorities would face a court-martial for the desertion in 1965. The US has reiterated its stance that it will not drop charges upon the news of the reunion on 9th.

Indeed, Jakarta was chosen because both Japan and North Korea have embassies there, and Indonesia does not have an extradition treaty with the US.

Charles Jenkins apparently broke the rule of the society he belonged to 40 years ago and went to North Korea at his will, and chose not to come to Japan when he was personally urged by Prime Minister Koizumi to do so in May in Pyongyang.

Japanese people would sympathize with Ms Soga, for whatever her desires to be realized. Nevertheless, we must not forget there are other people in the scene, with the possibility of seeking their own objectives, perhaps different from Japanese peoples' presumptions, but which should not be denied for the very same reason we support Ms Soga.

Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications