[FOUNTAIN]More dramatic than fiction

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[FOUNTAIN]More dramatic than fiction

“The Unsung Heroes,” a 20-episode North Korean drama from 1979 to 1981, enjoyed sensational popularity in the North. It was about North Korean spies who had been sent to the South during the last days of the Korean War. With the help of espionage, the North Korean forces make a pre-emptive attack and gain an advantage over the South in negotiating a truce.
The essence of the series is the brain game played between a North Korean spy named Yurim and an Eighth Army officer in charge of counterespionage.
Charles Jenkins, a former U.S. soldier who left the army and went over to North Korea in 1965, stars as an American officer in this fictional world. His actual career is not so far from the drama. He taught English to the North Korean spies. In 1978, he married Hitomi Soga, a Japanese citizen abducted by North Korean agents. She also trained spies. Ms. Soga returned to Japan by herself in 2002, right after the first Pyongyang and Tokyo summit meeting. Two years later, Mr. Jenkins came to Japan with their two daughters and settled on a small island in Niigata Prefecture where Ms. Soga had been abducted decades ago.
As soon as Ms. Soga reunited with her family, she started talking about the kidnappings by North Korea. According to a report that came out earlier this year, the agent who kidnapped Megumi Yokota in 1977 was Shin Gwang-su. Ms. Yokoda is a symbolic figure of the North Korean kidnappings of Japanese, and it was recently learned that her husband is Kim Young-nam, a South Korean citizen who was also taken to the North.
Shin Ghwang-su is a public enemy in Japan. He made a name in the spy world as he frequented Japan and South Korea in the 1970s and 1980s and connected the “spy cells” in the two countries. In 1980, he led the abduction of Tadaaki Hara, a chef at a Chinese restaurant in Osaka. Afterward, he pretended to be Mr. Hara in the South and established a spy network until he was caught by the Security Planning Agency in 1985. He was freed in 1999 from prison as a part of the “Millennium Pardon.” The following year, he was sent back to the North as an unconverted long-term prisoner and has received a hero’s treatment. Last February, the Japanese police issued an arrest warrant for him. The affair is a tragedy, where the captor is the captive and the reality is more dramatic than the fiction.
The government is ready to demand the repatriation of the South Koreans who had been kidnapped by the North. The pains of the kidnapped people and their families should be the top priority on the agenda.


by Oh Young-hwan

The writer is a deputy political news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.

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