October 16, 2002
3:42 PM   Subscribe

Japanese abducted by North Korea in Japan for brief visit. After many years of denying accusations, North Korea finally came clean last month and admitted to having kidnapped a number of Japanese civilians. Of the thirteen they admit to abducting, they say only five are still alive, and these five have been allowed a visit to Japan this week. On a less encouraging note, however, the five survivors were not allowed to bring their children or spouses and arrived donning pins bearing an image of the Great Leader. Is Kim Jong Il genuinely turning over a new leaf, is this just another part of a heartless cash grab scheme, or did the "axis of evil" speech intimidate them into softening up for a moment?
posted by shoos (22 comments total)
They just want money.

The sad thing is that they will probably use it to finance military research instead of feeding their famine stricken people.
posted by Blubble at 3:45 PM on October 16, 2002

Why do I bother reading newspapers when I can just read Metafilter?
posted by Nelson at 4:04 PM on October 16, 2002

With MeFi, you don't get your hands all black(unless you have a really dirty keyboard).
posted by Blubble at 4:12 PM on October 16, 2002

Because when you read newspapers there's no posting function for you to waste you energy on?
posted by shoos at 4:34 PM on October 16, 2002

ahh, but you can't (easily) set fire to metafilter - nor can you wipe your ass with it!
posted by luriete at 4:59 PM on October 16, 2002

Metafilter: you can't wipe your ass with it.

And I don't really see how this is "turning over a new leaf." Allowing five people to leave their country after another eight that they kidnapped died in captivity, forced to wear pictures of their captor while being reminded that if they don't willingly return to captivity their family members will be held and possibly tortured? Why Kim, you shouldn't have!

What amazes me is how international diplomacy allows this to happen everywhere... isn't there someone in Israel who's been kidnapped by the government for the last ten years or so too?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:05 PM on October 16, 2002

I doubt Bush's intimidation speech had anything to do with Pyongyang's recent warmth towards the "outside." South Korea and Japan have mounted high-profile efforts toward resolving differences with Pyongyang, while the US has lagged. Yes, there was the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, James Kelly's visit in early October. (The fact that not much was heard about this visit prompts me to believe it did not go as well as Tokyo and Seoul's effort to form relations.)
It seems the US has not made a clear attempt towards resolving differences w/ Pyongyang. Its lack of diplomacy could cause the U.S. to lose influence in the region with its two closest allies. Or maybe the US is just sitting back to see if N. Korea is genuine. We will have to see.
posted by culpable at 5:15 PM on October 16, 2002

Blah, screw Iraq, why don't we take out these bastards? I mean, I don't think anyone actualy likes them. And china would reap huge benifits in their downfall.

And not only that, there's no 'rebuliding' stage to worry about since S.Korea would handle all of that.
posted by delmoi at 5:19 PM on October 16, 2002

Actually, I think they're opening a can of worms, not turning over a new leaf.
posted by chris24 at 5:28 PM on October 16, 2002

Nelson's just making a "Newsfilter!" comment without using the word.

shoos, can I take "all of the above"? Certainly if they just wanted cash, there were offers on the table -- but the South Korean "sunshine policy" had stalled out badly. It can't be entirely coincidental that there has been more, and more substantive, change since the Axis-of-Evil label. It's still a very unpredictable regime, though, and I wouldn't start counting chips just yet. Asia Times had a great article, one weekend's news, showing how volatile things are. There's a lot of promise, but the PRK is just as capable of reversing course at the slightest excuse for them to act miffed. It's like diplomacy with a cat.

culpable, my view is that the US is standing back and forcing the N Koreans to settle their serious issues with Seoul and Tokyo. (Additionally, China and Russia have been increasing contacts, but all with the same aim -- toward reducing tensions on the peninsula. Those guys want a rail link to South Korea.) Our major interest -- a reversal in nuclear weapons and missile programs -- is more or less dealt with for the moment. Others such as a reduction in the million-man army hard up against the DMZ will have to wait for further reduction of tensions and require intense trilateral negotiations. It's a good cop/bad cop thing.

Pyongyang has been very eager to seek a summit between Kim and Bush, and we have been adamant about refusing one. Sending Kelly -- not even Powell -- was a deliberate snub, and Kim probably lost face in Asian terms. How far do we need to extend the olive branch, exactly? We've already given them billions and are assisting them with their civilian nuclear program, under the terms set during the Clinton administration. I think it's right to insist that North Korea start behaving properly before rewarding them with high-level diplomacy.
posted by dhartung at 5:29 PM on October 16, 2002

My keyboard is really dirty. And it has pancakes on it. My hands are covered in syrup. Wow, I love the LA Times so much I come to mefi to read it again.
posted by ac at 5:32 PM on October 16, 2002

And not only that, there's no 'rebuilding' stage to worry about since S.Korea would handle all of that.

I don't think so. SK doesn't come close to being financially able to handle the rebuilding of NK. It would take a huge influx of capital and assistance from all over the world.
posted by Plunge at 6:04 PM on October 16, 2002

What's sadder about this incident is that the abductees couldn't even admit to their families in North Korea that they were returning to Japan to be reunited with family members they hadn't seen in over 25 years, out of fear for their children's safety. The abductees are only able to stay in Japan for one to two weeks before having to return to North Korea. Kim Jong Il has "apologized for the kidnappings and promised that such incidents would never happen again" - how generous of him!
posted by lil at 6:17 PM on October 16, 2002

for additional comentary from when they finally came clean last month.
posted by DBAPaul at 6:26 PM on October 16, 2002

insert m as necessary
posted by DBAPaul at 6:28 PM on October 16, 2002

dhartung: I also think 'all of the above' are promoting this new 'openness,' but the new-leaf-turning is simply opportunism.

The episode with the Japanese abductees also highlights the massive gap in cultural understanding between the PRK and Japan (and the west as well). The Japanese are absolutely furious about what they've heard from the PRK about the abductees - even the famously cool Koizumi yesterday called the PRK a 'reprehensible' nation and says they 'killed' the 8 missing Japanese. Kim Jong Il seemed to have expected the admission would smooth things out between the countries. The Japanese have gone from quiet resentment and suspicion to outright disgust.

And the KJI pins. Talk about blowback.

About the newsfilter issue - yes, I expected that criticism. I did have a really amusing post I was going to make about a Rubik's cube that fell into a sinkhole - but I thought the N Korea story would give everybody more jollies.
posted by shoos at 7:43 PM on October 16, 2002

Exactly, shoos -- complete and utter tone-deafness. What would it cost them to release all the captives, and their children, unconditionally? They really are the closest thing on the planet to Blofeld and S.P.E.C.T.R.E.

In any case, now I've seen that they're still running their WMD program, I'd have to revise what I said. So much for a positive example of appeasement in the modern world.
posted by dhartung at 8:33 PM on October 16, 2002

And the "comfort women" of Korea wonder where that outrage was for their plight...13 compared to thousands, especially when many of those responsible are still alive today.
posted by Plunge at 9:15 PM on October 16, 2002

lord, i hate the japan times.

there's so much more about japan & n. korea to be found in & on & around the japan today site: i adore this fantastic resource (it has a great imode site too, should you wanna type/fumble the above address into your DoCoMo).
posted by n o i s e s at 11:04 PM on October 16, 2002

on the other hand.......
during japanese occupation six million koreans were taken to japan. one million have died.

it was a politically risky move for DPRK to admit this, but it is a necessary step to the long term building of relationships.
posted by quarsan at 1:10 AM on October 17, 2002

XQUZYPHYR: I plugged "Israeli kidnappings" into Google and got nada. Plenty of stories of Hamas kidnapping Israeli's though. Maybe I'm not looking hard enough.

Although the one Israeli kidnapping I do know of is Mossad's kidnapping of Adolph Eichmann.
posted by PenDevil at 1:20 AM on October 17, 2002

I feel I should clarify my comments. I started out to become a Korean Historian (Yonsei, the only place to go to school!), did my undergrad work in that area then got side-tracked into other areas of study. With that, my studies of colonial Korea and post-colonial Korea has definitely colored my opinions towards Japan. With that, let me say the families of the abducted people have my deepest sympathies, but the outrage of the populous does not.
posted by Plunge at 9:26 AM on October 17, 2002

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