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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #263: November 16, 2004

Japan 'Unsatisfied' on Abductees

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

Japan 'Unsatisfied' on Abductees


The speech presented by Roh Moo-hyun, the President of South Korea (ROK), in Los Angeles over the weekend spurred instant controversy at home and concerns by its allies while apparently winning some supporters as well in other parts of the world.

President Roh Moo-Hyun at a breakfast meeting held by the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles on Saturday reportedly made remarks such as: "North Korea's assertion is reasonable that its nuclear and missile capabilities are a deterrence designed to defend themselves from external threats." "Pyongyang’s nuclear development program was likely designed to win the regime security guarantees." And he concluded by saying, "There is no way other than dialogue."

A South Korean newspaper The Chosun Ilbo, which has constantly taken the critical stance against President Roh, commented in its editorial, "From a practical standpoint, who would oppose a call to solve the nuclear problem through dialogue over force? The problem is how to carry out the bold initiative with such an unpredictable partner as the North." It referred to the Libyan case where the regime abandoned its nuclear development program because of "dialogue and sublimated forms of international pressure applied," and condemns the President's statement as "tantamount to an abandonment of a negotiating tool with the North."

On the other hand, a number of comments from within the US have come out agreeing with the President's assertion. One comment said, "If the west approaches North Korea with distrust, no agreement will be possible, especially after so many decades of mutual antipathy. Contrarily, if North Korea is accepted as a suitable partner in the dialogue, and if the dialogue is a true multilateral exchange, the process will produce peace - because a peaceful settlement is in North Korea's survivalist interests."

It is fairly certain that many Japanese would concur to this assessment, that is, if not for another issue very seriously affecting the sentiment of the Japanese people.

The abductions of Japanese citizens are indignant acts by themselves, but moreover, North Korea has persistently attempted to evade and play down the issue by deceptive explanations and false documents and 'evidences,' which have caused strong resentments to build up among the Japanese people against the rogue regime.

The talks between the Japanese and North Korean officials just ended on the abduction issue as reported in the article introduced above was already the third of its kind. Instead of in Beijing previously, this time it was held in Pyongyang so as for the Japanese delegation, which included the investigators from the police, could get as close as possible to the truth, by analyzing the 'evidences,' visiting relative places, and questioning the people involved.

As reported in the article, North Korea presented virtually nothing new. They reiterated their position that there were 13 abductees, of which five was returned to Japan and eight dead. North Korea denied any knowledge of other abductions even in cases where significant amount of circumstantial evidences point to them being the crimes committed by North Korea.

There was, however, an exception. Megumi Yokota was kidnapped in 1977 by North Korean spies in 1977 when she was 13, and has become an icon of the abduction issue with their parents leading the families of victims in the effort of finding out the truth. It has been reported that North Korea handed over the remains of Megumi, and also allowed the Japanese officials to talk to her husband.

Thus far, these reports have not helped calm the Japanese people's sentiments. On the contrary, people are ever more skeptical. It is customary in North Korea to simply bury the bodies of the dead. But it was told that Megumi's body, buried in 1993, was dug out two years later, and was cremated. This is very unusual, and arose suspicion that the (story of the) cremation was an attempt to evade DNA analysis.

The man who was told to be Megumi's husband refused to have his photos taken, or to provide a piece of his hair for analysis. As the five victims who have returned to Japan two years ago had met Megumi and her husband when they were held captives in North Korea, a photo would have provided at least an indication on the trustworthiness of the story. Also, as the daughter of Megumi has been already identified through DNA analysis, comparing the man's DNA with the daughter's would reveal the fraud if that happens to be the case. Refusing to cooperate has only fueled suspicion rather then clear it.

Another aspect pointed out by many is the fact that 'evidences,' however skeptical, were presented only for Megumi's case. Many suspect that it was intended to flatter the Yokotas, who are acting as the forefront of the families of the victims. North Korea has done this before, when the daughter of Megumi, later confirmed as real, suddenly appeared in newsflashes and asked her grandparents, the Yokotas to come to Pyongyang and pick her up. The Yokotas did not concede, suspecting it to be some sort of a trap, and even if it were not, to nullify the North's obvious intention to pamper the Yokotas.

In perhaps a similar manner to the Americans awakened to face an aspect of the reality of the world on 9.11, the abductions of friends and neighbors by foreign spies long before committed but revealed only two years ago made the Japanese people recognize the brutality of the real world.

Japanese people would have gladly chosen to discuss productively with North Korea on issues such as peaceful nuclear development and providing of funds and expertise, not just food, to assist its economic development, -- if they feel there is hope of bring peace and prosperity to the region. But the distrust and resentment accumulated among the people through dealing with North Korea in such matters as the abductions which people could relate to at their personal levels, have made the traditional strategies of international - and perhaps domestic - politics and negotiations virtually unworkable.

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