Abductions by any other name

The June 9 Kyodo article “Japan sends list of 470 potential abductees to North Korea” made me think. No one can begin to criticize the Japanese authorities for continuing to take a firm stand on this issue in the face of continued stalling on the part of an evil and untrustworthy state such as North Korea. They are working hard to bring about a solution.

But how would the Japanese authorities handle such a move on the part of Western states with regard to the scores of Western-Japanese children who have been abducted to, or wrongfully retained on, Japanese shores? Even the anecdotal figures relating to such abductions must exceed 470, and the suspicion must be that the actual numbers far exceed this, as there is a great deal of under-reporting, given the near-impossibility of having such children returned to the countries of their former habitual residence. Although Japan, grudgingly and only after coming under pressure from the American administration, recently passed the Hague Convention into law, that instrument lacks retroactive effect and will do nothing to address abduction cases that predate April 1, 2014.

Those Western governments that have parents and children caught up in this should take a leaf out of Japan’s book and compose a list of unresolved pre-Hague cases for the Japanese government to proactively address. That might bring about some political stamina from those Japanese officials who up to now have conspicuously lacked such a quality in those cases not covered by the Hague Convention.

As for the past abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents, it is a sad fact that the only real difference between Japan and North Korea is that the North Korean state positively sanctioned such abductions in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The best that can be said of the Japanese government is that it has positively tolerated such abductions.

name withheld by request
manchester, england

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

  • Justin Thyme

    Indeed Japanese government complicity at best but I and many affirm that child abductions to Japan are tantamount to being state-sponsored, given the assistance offered by embassies to abductors and the protection awarded by the judiciary.

    Furthermore, the Japanese government may infer tacit approval by the abducted children’s home governments due to their inaction.

    Great letter, thank you.

  • Scott Beckingsale

    I commend the Japan Times for publishing this article as historically most Japanese publications have either resisted connecting these issues or have adamantly denied any similarities between them. The are obviously similar issues and to deny this is plainly dishonest. It doesn’t matter who abducts a child (parent, friend or stranger) and it doesn’t matter what motivates them. All other crimes committed against children, including sexual assault and murder, are recognized as crimes regardless of the relationship the perpetrator has to the child and all decent people know this to be true of child abduction as well. That the Japanese government facilitates and encourages these abductions is a massive slap in the face to the left behind parent (LBP) but that our own governments procrastinate, delay and lie in support of maintaining trade relationships with Japan is the insult which leads many LBP’s to stop believing in the social contract. Ultimately any parent who abducts a child and/or alienates a child from the non-custodial parent is a child abuser equal to any other type of child abuser in terms of damage done and low character. Hopefully we will all live to see the day that this is recognized both legally as well as in the broader court of public opinion.