It’s a family matter for abductees repatriated from North Korea

Opinions - June 18th, 2004
Robert J. Collins

by Bob Collins

I’m a sucker for the cur­rent news stories about those folks who were abducted to North Korea years ago, and who are now trying to pull together their families and get everyone re-settled on the mother ship that is Japan.

“Get those poor children home,” countless relatives creeping out of the woodwork seem to say. “They’ve never even eaten decent omochi before. It’s shameful,” everyone agrees.

Do you think those count­less relatives were falling off their bath stools or rolling around the tatami over the years with constant and agonizing concern about their loved ones? Perhaps, but I think the shock of someone going missing abates with time. It’s terrible — I have two formerly close cousins who dropped out of sight — but life goes on.

What I do believe is that it’s going a little over the top to give the impression in news reports that the countless relatives are now being rewarded for the unrelenting struggle they’ve endured daily for the last 24 years.

(Having said that, however, I do have the feeling Mr. Hasuike’s elder brother may have been pushing this for some time.

(He’s the guy I would call Fu Manchu if I were not so politi­cally correct and overly sensitive to the way people look. Fu seems to have awakened every­one to the possibilities of going after the governments. He cer­tainly makes a good impression as a spokesman and I hope everyone keeps Fu in mind if he ever needs anything in the future. Like a razor.)

However, back to the issue of returning to Japan. Why are various family members who have remained safely in Japan all this time saying the children are returning to Japan? Those kids have never been here; they were in their minds Korean until a month ago and, like it or not, they were making their way in life boosted by what seems to be under the circumstances a rather decent education.

These are young plants abruptly uprooted from a life they had accepted in their heads — all for the peace of mind of countless relatives — and decent omochi.

There’ll probably be dark little adjustment problems that will have to be solved, which of course we won’t hear about from the selectively diligent press.

Ms. Soga and her American husband have a more compli­cated ball of problems. Now is probably one of the worst times in recent history for someone accused of deserting from the U.S. military. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld? President George W. Bush? No chance.

Jenkins and Ms. Soga would have been luckier if this had happened five years ago. Bill Clinton would have been likely to invite them over to the White House for saxophone lessons and kimchi on the South Lawn.

Back to the point — I’m a sucker for all the news on this topic. The reason is simple — and tragic.

Every day the kidnapped families and their offspring are headlined on the front page, or occupy the number one inter­view slot on television, means there are unlikely to be stories of pure horror on which to report from Iraqi prisons, suicide bombers and slaughters on Baghdad streets.

Closer to home, the appear­ance of Fu Manchu on the tube means no salaryman has taken it into his head that day to wipe out his family, and no little child has decided to slash a playmate to death over something as cru­cial as Internet messages.

Things are getting a little rough around here. I’m looking for Fu tonight.