North Korea

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In case you’ve been trapped in a sound proof box humming to yourself with your eyes closed lately, you may not know that the only thing in the Japanese press over the weekend was the stories about the families of North Korean abductees returning to Japan with Prime Minister Koizumi.

I honestly don’t know if the phrase ‘media frenzy’ really covers it, but that’s what it was – hours and hours of coverage of Haneda airport waiting for the plane to arrive, outside shots for a while, a bus and narrow angles of people walking past cracks in the curtains. And of course, experts, idols and a few other people in the studio to cross analyze the ‘situation’, and criticize the poor taste of other channel’s coverage.

Basically, a round-up; over 25 years ago some Japanese nationals were kidnapped by North Korea to teach their spies about Japan. In 2002 Japan secured their release, and this weekend, most of their families were allowed to come to Japan.

There’s a lot of talk about this – some people feel it’s unfair as the families have never lived in Japan, and are essentially foreigners in a strange land – up until 2 years ago, most didn’t know their parents were Japanese. Surprisingly Koizumi has come under criticism for not getting *all* the family members to return. The case most highlighted is that of Mr. Jenkins, an American who left his army unit to join his kidnapped wife in North Korea. Now she has returned to Japan, and he is left in Pyonyang as if he were to come to Japan, even in his 60s, he would be arrested by US Forces for desertion.

I think the only gauge of whether this is the best outcome for this saga is whether the people involved are where they want to be – and not where their leaders want them to be for political ends. As for Jenkins, well, that’s difficult enough, but given the problems the American military is having right now, it’s unlikely he’d get a light sentence.

As for Koizumi, I guess he’s lucky he could make this trip in the middle of the pensions scandal which seems to have disappeared from the media…maybe for an encore, he could help get South Koreans released.