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Japan Leads the Way on Humanitarian Concerns

June 30, 2009

This editorial originally appeared in the Daily NK.

Last week, South Korean newspapers ran an eye-catching advertisement, “Let’s bring the light of human rights to North Korea! True peace in East Asia!” It was very eye-catching, and the subtitle, “A letter from the people of Japan to the South Koreans,” was particularly outstanding. There was also a family picture of Yaeko Taguchi, the Japanese citizen abducted by North Korea in 1978 and forced to teach Japanese to North Korean agent Kim Hyun Hee, who subsequently bombed Korean Air Flight 858 in 1987.

The letter, paid for by a Japanese interest group, described the sorrowful cases of Japanese and South Korean abduction victims, stressing that one of the most terrible human rights violations possible is to abduct a person, separate them from their friends and family and force them to engage in misdeeds. It added, poignantly, that the country which has suffered from the most abduction cases is not Japan, but South Korea. That is both easily forgotten, and correct.

“We want to help the North Korean people, who are groaning under a brutal political system; the abduction and enslavement of the North Korean people also stems from disregard for human rights,” the core of the message proclaimed, noting that the fundamental rights of all human beings are precious for the people of all countries.

It continued, “It is essential that we expand basic human rights in order to totally eliminate North Korean threats to peace, since oppression of people’s freedom causes crises that can lead to war”

The advertisement was wrapped up with a statement, “The peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula can be accomplished after North Korean democratization. The people of South Korea and Japan should struggle to reform North Korea into a democratic state in order to forge a peaceful and flourishing Korean Peninsula and East Asia.”

This advertisement contains an insightful glimpse into the heart of the problem with North Korea and the way to resolve the abduction issue.

In truth, there are many in South Korean society who think that peace and reunification on the Korean Peninsula can be accomplished without North Korean democratization. They want to unify with North Korea and to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula based on unrealistic and undemocratic formulae: coexistence and cooperation with the totalitarian dictatorship, which cannot be changed and will not last.

Meanwhile, on the same day, the 25th, Osaka Governor Toru Hashimoto made some comments on “Shiokaze,” a Japanese short wave radio program broadcast aimed at the North Korean people, “I hope you (Japanese abductees) come back to us as soon as possible,” he said, “We cannot forget about you and we will never forget you.” He finished, “Please, do not give up on returning to our country. I will do everything I can as a governor.”

It was the second time that a Japanese governor has tried to give strength to surviving abductees in this way, following the lead of the Governor of Tokyo.

One has the utmost trouble finding a South Korean governor prepared to so vocally display his or her determination to save victims of cruel North Korean abduction. They are busy people, but there is still no reason why they cannot make their voices heard.

We hope that at least one governor in South Korea can find the time to encourage the 171,000 victims of North Korean abduction, including 93,000 Korean residents in Japan who were misled into choosing repatriation to North Korea, as these Japanese governors did.

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