A new documentary tells the story of North Korea's Japanese abductees





Scene: A lonely residential street in the city of Niigata, along the western coast of Japan.

Time: Late afternoon in the autumn of 1977.

Action: A 13-year-old girl is walking home from school, having stayed late for badminton practice. She waves good-bye to friends, turns the corner, and is never seen again.

This is the true story of "Abduction," a documentary that opened in Japan last weekend after winning accolades at several international film festivals. The lost girl is Megumi Yokota. In 2002, North Korea admitted that it had kidnapped Megumi, along with 12 other Japanese citizens, enslaving them for the purpose of training its spies to pass as Japanese. "Megumi-chan," or "Little Megumi," is now a household name in Japan. President Bush met with Megumi's mother and brother in the White House last April, calling it "one of the most moving meetings since I've been the President."

In the wake of North Korea's recent nuclear test and missile launches, it's easy to neglect the other central fact of Kim Jong Il's regime: its abuse of human rights. This is the preferred approach of Beijing, whose stated policy is to track down and repatriate the tens of thousands of desperate North Koreans who have crossed the border into northeast China. It refuses to let the United Nations help the refugees and sends them back to face prison camps or worse.

More grotesquely, it is also the attitude of South Korea, which closes its eyes to the North's depredations. It permits what amounts to slave labor in the Kaesong joint economic zone over the border in the North. Moreover, President Roh Moo-hyun's "sunshine policy" has shed no light on the fate of several hundred South Koreans who were kidnapped by the North or the hundreds of Korean War soldiers from the South whom Pyongyang has been holding as POWs for more than 50 years.


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