Missing Person of the Cold War: Liberation Report on Megumi Yokota

The following article is a stub; translation of the complete article should be posted in a few hours’ time. –A.C.  More to follow….

Arnaud Vaulerin, “Japan. Disparu de la Guerre Froide [Japan: Disappeared in the Cold War],” Liberation, 11 March 2009.

Megumi Yokota, following the example of a dozen Japanese, was kidnapped by North Korea in the 1970s: Her case continues to poison the relations between the two states.

TOKYO, KAWASAKI, OBAMA (Special Report)

Ils sont assis sur le bord du canapé, droits et soudés. Sur la table basse ornant le hall de leur immeuble cossu de Kawasaki, à une trentaine de kilomètres au sud de Tokyo, ils ont posé deux dossiers bleus. Sakie et Shigeru Yokota y rangent toutes les images de leur fille Megumi. Des clichés jaunis côtoient des photos aux couleurs vives, seules traces de leur aînée, enlevée à l’âge de 13 ans par des espions nord-coréens. Trente-deux ans plus tard, les jeunes parents sont devenus des septuagénaires «fatigués», qui n’ont pourtant «pas perdu espoir» de revoir leur fille. Depuis cette nuit d’automne, ils n’ont cessé de frapper à toutes les portes, passant, au gré des recherches, de l’exaltation la plus vive au plus profond abattement.

They sit on the edge of the sofa, hands welded together. On the coffee table decorating the hall of their opulent home in Kawasaki, about thirty kilometers south of Tokyo, they lay out two blue files. There, Sakie and Shigeru Yokota tidily arrange all the images of their daughter Megumi. Yellowed pictures go alongside photos in lively colors, the only traces of their elder daughter, kidnapped at the age of 13 by North Korean spies. Thirty-two years later, these young parents have became tired septuagenarians.  “Nevertheless,” they say,  “[we have] not lost hope ” to see their daughter again. On this night of the Japanese autumn, they knock ceaselessly on all the doors, amid many passer-by, moving through this search into the most living ecstasy and the most profound dejection.

Megumi
Megumi

L’histoire de Megumi aurait pu rester un tragique fait divers. Mais sa disparition – et celle de onze autres Japonais kidnappés par Pyongyang dans les années 70-80 – est devenue une cause nationale brandie par Tokyo de sommets internationaux en visites d’Etat. Après des décennies de silence, c’est un battage continu. Dans ce pays qui dévore des mangas par millions, le gouvernement a fait réaliser une BD sur l’histoire de la jeune fille, suivie d’un dessin animé en 2008. La mère de Megumi vient de faire traduire en anglais un livre de souvenirs sur sa longue quête. La télévision NHK a reçu des injonctions pour multiplier les reportages sur ses chaînes. Chaque année en décembre, a lieu une «semaine des disparus». Et un ruban bleu les commémorant a été dessiné, aux couleurs de la Mer du Japon qui sépare l’archipel de la Corée du Nord.

The history of Megumi could have remained a tragedy apart.  But this disappearence — and that of the 12 other Japanaese kidnapped by Pyongyang in the 1970s and 1980s — has become a national cause brandished by Tokyo in international summits and state visits.  After decades of silence, it is a battle that continues.

In this state which devours manga by the millions, the government has created a BD [bande desinée / comic book] of the history of this young girl, followed by an animated film [anime / dessin animé] in 2008.  (Translator’s note: the manga was published by Futabasha in Tokyo.)

Megumi’s mother has written a book about her long quest, and had it translated into English.  NHK television receives injunctions to multiply reportage of the book via its network affiliates.  Every year in December, a “Week for the Disappeared” takes place.  And blue ribbons commemorate, drawn with the colors of the Sea of Japan which separates the archipelago from North Korea.

Missile Tests

Of the seventy Japanese which Tokyo accuses Japan of abducting, only five returned in 2002.

This case has passed well beyond the first step of contentious bilateral issues.  It perturbs the discussions on North Korean denuclearization, paralyszes the nornalisation of relations between the tyo states and reveals the errors of Japanese diplomacy.

Mid-February in Tokyo, on her first trip abroad as chief American diplomat, Hillary clinton demanded that the communist regime resolve the problem, afterwords stating that “the question of kidnapping should be part of the Six-Party Talks; this case has a better chance of advancing if it is integrated with global discussions.”  No matter how full her agenda, Barack Obama’s Secretary of State uses her time to meet the kin of the disappeared, most notably the mother of Megumi.

Additional resources: This VOA report on “Abduction” describes an American documentary about Megumi Yokota’s case shown in Paris.    Megumi’s mother has written a book about her experience; it is now available in English.  Joshua Stanton, about the most staunchly anti-North Korean human rights Republican Washington D.C. Jewish deist former U.S. Army prosecutor I know, gives some analysis of the book on his incomparable One Free Korea blog.  Both the Washington Post and Asia Times report on Hillary Clinton’s meeting with Megumi’s mother.

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