Abductees need to adjust

Daily Yomiuri (Japan), Oct. 17, 2002

It will take time for the five abductees who returned to Japan on Tuesday to open up to people in this country after more than two decades in isolated North Korea, according to experts.

The five spoke briefly at a joint press conference after they arrived, saying they were happy to see their families and sorry for making everyone worry about them for such a long time.

“The women smiled as they descended the steps (from their plane at Haneda Airport),” Shingo Takahashi, psychiatrist and associate professor at Toho University, said after watching the scene on television.

“Their calm demeanors seem to indicate that they’ve been treated well in North Korea,” he added.

He added, however, that the abductees’ reactions on meeting their families may not reflect their experiences in North Korea.

“They’ve spent 24 years in that closed society–it must have cast shadows over their minds,” Takahashi said.

According to a report issued by the government fact-finding team sent to North Korea in late September, the five repeatedly said they “researched reality” and “experienced reality” at state accommodations in North Korea.

Pyongyang explained that the research involved reading books about North Korea and the experiences involved visiting museums and historic sites.

Korea Report Editor Pyon Jin Il said, “It basically means they’ve had a tough ideological education.”

Abductees would have had to pledge allegiance to North Korea after being forced to watch movies praising Kim Jong Il and other national leaders, and being left alone to study at the state accommodations, Pyon said.

The two couples who returned to Japan did not marry until they had been in North Korea for 16 months and 22 months.

Pyon said it is reasonable to assume that Pyongyang deemed it needed this time to reform their thinking, Pyon said.

Japanese leftist radicals who hijacked the Japan Air Lines plane Yodo to North Korea in 1970 also attended daily lectures on “juche,” a philosophy of self-reliance in which the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung is praised as the father of North Korea.

A former snack bar owner who entered North Korea in 1977, married one of the Yodo hijackers and was involved in the abduction of Keiko Arimoto in Europe, states in her book that she was only allowed to visit historic sites, state accommodations and a few other places in Pyongyang.

“I was taught through movies and theater performances that juche was truth,” she wrote.

To open the abductees’ hearts and minds to people in this country, Takahashi said it would be best to let them gradually recall happy memories.

This could be done by meeting with friends, eating meals they used to enjoy and visiting old haunts in their hometowns, he said. They also would benefit from seeing personal items–such as photos–they cherished before their abduction, he added.

He said that people who will be in touch with the abductees, including the police officers who will question them, should heed professional advice.

Kimiaki Nishida, social psychologist and lecturer at Shizuoka Prefectural University, said, “It will take time for the five to open their minds.”

He stressed that it was most important that the Japanese and North Korean governments develop an environment in which the abductees and their families can visit each other freely.


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Religion News Blog posted this on Sunday October 20, 2002.
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