The Voices of Members
by Izumi Asano
Takashi Osawa, one of my cousins, is what we call a North Korean abductee. Strictly speaking, he is my mother’s cousin. However, we were about the same age and thus were brought up like first cousins. Our houses were close to each other’s and we often played together. I still clearly remember our elementary school days when we made a tunnel in deep snow and threw snowballs. Even after we grew up and left our hometown, we tried to reach each other every time we went home.
In the winter of 1974, Takashi, at age 27, abruptly disappeared on Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture, where he was stationed with the Office of Prefectural Farmland. The police and fire departments, as well as all his immediate family members and other relatives, searched for him in vain for many days. We could not even locate his body. Was he the victim of a crime? An accident? A suicide? Several possible reasons for his disappearance were considered, but many years passed without any strong evidence. His mother died believing he was still alive. His family finally held a funeral. In those days nobody had even heard of the term abduction.
Thirty years have passed since his disappearance, and it became the consensus of a nationwide organization of abduction victims’ families that circumstantial evidence indicated Takashi had been abducted by North Korea. Takashi’s family and relatives in Niigata have been desperately appealing for his rescue. In the meantime, living in the U.S., I have always felt guilty that I haven’t done anything for Takashi.
Recently, I heard about a Canadian couple, Patty Kim and Chris Sheridan, who were producing a movie, “ABDUCTION： The Megumi Yokota * Story” and trying to make Americans aware of the North Korean abduction issue. I was impressed to know that they even used their own credit card to finance the movie. I was even more impressed when I met with them. I asked them frankly why they, not Japanese, could be so eager to explore the issue, even incurring personal debt. They said it was simply a “human story” that should appeal to all people. I felt they were considering it their mission.
In the meantime, six-country talks by the U.S., Japan, China, South Korea, North Korea and Russia have been held on and off over the last few years. However, the abduction issue has been considered minor and thus has seldom been included in the agendas of the talks. My personal opinion is that the six-country talks are not for solving problems, but for confirming present conditions. North Korea fears invasion by the U.S., and the U.S. fears recklessness by North Korea. In addition, the six countries’ governments, not their people, want to keep the existing regime in North Korea. I don’t think the Japanese government can reveal its own views, let alone carry them out, unless it obtains U.S. support. Therefore, I hope the U.S. government will show its interest in the issue and steer the Japanese government in the right direction. How can we spur on the U.S. government? If only we could heighten the awareness of the American people….
It was when I was thinking the abduction issue that I met Patty and Chris. I felt as if my soul was freshened by their sincere personalities. I thought I should do something if foreigners who have no direct connection with the abductees are taking action so eagerly. Patty and Chris are not famous, but are young with scarce resources. Since they want to keep their independence, they do not accept funds either from the Japanese government or from the abduction victims’ group. But they are asking for your contributions. They’ve already finished shooting the movie and are now editing it. They are planning to enter the film in the Sundance Film Festival. If you are interested, please contact them at 202-234-5547, or write at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lastly, we are not simply praying for our family members and relatives to be freed from North Korea. The other day, I went to a North Korean freedom meeting held by Americans, and found the meeting full of the enthusiasm of thousands of people. I think we need to include in our views not only hundreds of Japanese abduction victims, but also those hundreds of thousands of Korean Japanese who “went home” after World War II and millions of North Koreans who are starving today. Also, we need to make plans and decisions while considering both the past and the future. If we can convey the abduction issue as a human story, as Patty and Chris do, to each individual regardless of ideology or political affiliation, I think we can move closer to the right direction to solve the issue.
P.S. I would like to form a D.C. group with people interested in the abduction issue and together with them take steps such as gathering and exchanging information and supporting the victims’ family members who come here from Japan. If your family, or a friend is a victim of abduction, or if you are interested, please call 240-631-2717 or e-mail me at email@example.com.