JIN-350 -- Sins of the Fathers: Part 2 "We Believed North Korea Was a Great Country"

T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R
Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News

Issue No. 350
Wednesday December 28, 2005 TOKYO

+++ VIEWPOINT: Sins of the Fathers:
Part 2 "We Believed North Korea Was a Great Country"

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+++ VIEWPOINT: Sins of the Fathers:
Part 2 "We Believed North Korea Was a Great Country"

In March 1970, at the height of the Vietnam War, a Japan Airlines
plane, the "Yodogo," bound for Fukuoka from Haneda Airport, in
Tokyo, was hijacked to North Korea by a group of nine student
radicals affiliated with the Red Army. The passengers were released
in Fukuoka Airport and Gimpo International Airport in Seoul.

The Yodogo group members married Japanese women and sired children
in North Korea. Three of the group died there and two were arrested after
slipping into Japan. Four remain in the North with six wives and children.

Following on from last week's newsletter, we pick up the story of Taro
and Hanako (invented names), the son and daughter of a Yodogo
group father and a mother who left Japan and married him in
North Korea. The children, aged 27 and 26, first set foot in Japan
in September 2002. They now live in Osaka Prefecture.

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On September 10, 2002, Taro and Hanako traveled with their mother
and three other children to Narita via Beijing. That was a week
before Kim Jong-il acknowledged the abduction of Japanese to
Prime Minister Koizumi.

The group were met by police investigators at the airport. They
underwent a three-hour search. "I had been prepared [to be met
by the police]," remarked Hanako, "but I was shocked to be treated
like a criminal."

Their father's fellow activists held a reception for them, but could
not provide for their livelihood. The five children lived together
while they looked for part-time jobs. Taro found work at a gasoline
station and at an auto parts manufacturing line, while Hanako
found employment as a hotel receptionist and finance company clerk.

Seven months after returning to Japan investigators with a search
warrant visited Taro and Hanako's home. The elder brother of
a woman in the Yodogo group had been arrested for violation of
the passport law, since he had visited North Korea between 1986
and 1988 without permission. Police had arrived at Taro and
Hanako's apartment as part of a related investigation.
They confiscated New Year's cards and other items from their father.

In response to the search, Taro and Hanako filed suit against the
state and Tokyo in December 2003, "since it was clear that as
small children at the time they were not involved." However,
in August of this year the Osaka Court ruled that the search
was legitimate and threw out the suit.

Taro and Hanako had filed the suit in hopes of finding out why
they were being treated as if they were complicit in the Yodogo
hijacking and abductions of Japanese citizens, and in the hope
of forestalling similar mistreatment of other innocents who might
repatriate in the future.

Taro and Hanako knew their parents were under suspicion of
involvement in the abductions. Taro said that during the search
of their home one of the investigators asked, "Can you imagine
the suffering of Megumi Yokota [abducted from Niigata at the
age of 13 in 1977]?" Both brother and sister had believed their
parents' adamant disavowals of North Korean complicity. So they
were shocked when Kim Jong-il admitted his regime's guilt.

The two were distressed. "We believed North Korea was a great
country--the only country not to bend to American tyranny,"
said Hanako. In Japan they saw the fruits of capitalism and
heard searing criticism of the North. Yet even today don't think
the country where they grew up is bad.

They've now been in Japan three years. They've made close
friends their own age. Taro even revealed that he was the son of
a Yodogo hijacker. "Your parents are your parents, you are you,"
said one friend. Others had never heard of the Yodogo. No one
rejected his friendship.

--Burritt Sabin

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Written and edited by Burritt Sabin (editors2@japaninc.com)

(C) Copyright 2005 Japan Inc Communications KK. All Rights Reserved.