Film

Kidnapped!

The Politics of Abduction

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In 1977, 13-year-old Megumi Yokota was kidnapped near her home in Japan. Following the arc of her parents' grief and confusion, Abduction is the documentary that tells what little of her story is known—but more importantly, it illuminates an international conspiracy and political issues that remain underreported outside of Japan. Megumi's disappearance was not followed by the demand of a ransom, nor she was the victim of a serial killer, or a rapist. Rather, she was one of at least a dozen Japanese citizens who were kidnapped by North Korean spies during the '70s and '80s.

About four years ago, Kim Jong-il admitted the kidnappings took place (well, sort of—he admitted to the abductions of 13 people, including Megumi, while the Japanese insist there are at least 17 victims). And while five of the surviving abductees were released by North Korea, the "abduction issue" is still a major force in Japanese politics, and one of the primary talking points Japanese leaders use to warn of North Korea's human rights violations (a topic that seems rather pertinent considering Jong-il's recent bomb testing). The furor over the issue is at such a pitch that some have used it as a springboard to suggest that Japan should revise its foreign policy to be more aggressive, and it's said to be contributing to a rise in Japanese nationalism and anti-North Korean sentiment.

But beyond the global repercussions that Megumi has been a part of—hers is a household name in Japan—Abduction also stays very close to the experience of her parents, who believe she is still alive. Apparently kidnapped mistakenly, Megumi is a powerful symbol, the only child who was taken by the operatives, and her story would be easy to sensationalize. It's a tactful choice that the filmmakers refrain from doing so. Indeed, it's disturbing enough as it is to be learning of these events only now, in a world that seems increasingly teetering toward even more conflict.

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