The magazine Shukan Kin’yobi (Weekly Friday) said Saturday it has received numerous complaints about its interview in Pyongyang with the family of Hitomi Soga, one of five Japanese abducted 24 years ago by North Korea who returned to Japan for the first time on Oct. 15.

The magazine received about 110 faxes and 560 e-mails on Thursday and Friday, with 60 percent of the messages criticizing the interview and 40 percent supporting it.

Soga’s husband, Charles Robert Jenkins, 62, and the couple’s daughters, aged 19 and 17, told the magazine that they at least want her to return to Pyongyang International Airport so they can discuss their future as a family.

The magazine, sold mainly by subscription, published an article based on the interview in its Friday issue. The interview was conducted in English and Korean and took place Nov. 10 at the Koryo Hotel in Pyongyang.

Some of the critical messages sent to the magazine included: “Don’t be a mouthpiece of North Korea” and “Proper interviews are impossible in a country without freedom of expression.”

Some even went as far as labeling the magazine a “traitor.”

However, some of those voicing support said, “The report provided the five abductees with appropriate information” and “The media should conduct an interview with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, even if it may be part of Pyongyang’s propaganda campaign.”

The chief editor of the magazine, Kanji Okada, said, “Most of the criticisms and protests are based on misunderstanding. We will explain our position on the report in the next issue.”

Government officials and the abductees’ families bitterly protested the report, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda urging the media to be careful in their reporting and have some consideration for the privacy of those they are covering.

A representative of an association supporting the abductees and their families said the interview is part of North Korea’s propaganda efforts.

But Akihiro Otani, a former reporter for the Yomiuri Shimbun, said, “While I understand that the abductees and their families feel disgusted by the report, it is necessary to cover both sides in reports on Japan-North Korea issues.”

He said, however, the magazine needs to tell the public how they gained access to Soga’s family.

Sophia University professor Yasuhiko Tajima said, “The abductees and their families must be devastated that they can only get information about their relatives (in North Korea) through the mass media. But the situation is abnormal and the media should make efforts to pull aside the veil of secrecy.”

Soga, 43, has been in Japan for a month as of Friday. The Japanese government has decided not to allow the five returnees to go back to North Korea and is urging Pyongyang to allow their families to travel to Japan.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.