A double standard on abductions

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A double standard on abductions

If Megumi Yokota were alive, she would be 49 years old this year. On Nov. 15, 1977, she was kidnapped from her hometown of Niigata to North Korea. She disappeared on her way home from her school, about 800 meters from the East Sea, after badminton practice.

In December 2007, I visited the site of abduction, and the house Megumi had lived was occupied by another family. However, Megumi’s parents left their new address, in the hope that Megumi would return someday. The young girl must have been frightened as she was brought to a foreign country, and her parents must have suffered greatly after their child disappeared. Abduction is an unforgivable crime.

I am bringing up the issue of abduction because of the so-called comfort women issue.

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and Japanese rightists claim that the Kono statement does not include an expression that the comfort women were abducted by the Japanese government, and therefore, the forcible mobilization cannot be proven.

Their logic is that there is no evidence documenting that the military or government forcibly abducted the comfort women, and while the comfort women were recruited by the contractors at the request of the military, the Japanese Army did not forcibly take them.

Since the abductions were not organized by the government directly, they argue that the forcible mobilization was not valid. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s idea is not much different. Unless Japan breaks this vicious cycle of logic, tension will always exist in the Korea-Japan relationship.

Now, let’s move to the Japanese Police Agency’s official conference on April 25, 2005.

“Minoru Tanaka, a 28-year-old ramen shop employee in Kobe went missing in 1978, and there has been a testimony strongly suggesting that he was lured to another country by the sweet-talking shop owner, who received an order from North Korea and Mr. Tanaka was sent to the North. Therefore, we recognize this case as ‘abduction’ by North Korea.”

Mr. Tanaka was not taken with violence or threat but was lured by sweet talk. The actual action was made by the ramen shop owner, not the North Korean military or government. Of course, there was no evidence such as an official document of North Korea. The testimonies were recognized as evidence, and the Japanese government concluded that Tanaka was abducted by Pyongyang. He is now one of the 17 abduction victims officially acknowledged by the Japanese government.

Let’s apply the Japanese government’s logic in the Tanaka case on the comfort women issue.

The comfort women were sweet-talked to another country. Not by the agency but the entity who gave the order, namely the Japanese Army, is responsible, and the testimonies of the comfort women should be recognized as evidence, even if there is no document.

There’s no logical difference to the abduction of Tanaka. The comfort women were “abducted by the Japanese military,” and the rhetoric denying the coerciveness of the comfort women mobilization turns out to be flawed.

I do not mean to deny the validity of Tanaka’s abduction. I just want to argue that the same standards should be applied. Japan cannot argue that its own tragedy qualifies as abduction. It is a matter of common sense before we begin to discuss historical perspective.

*The author is a Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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