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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:54 03/09/2007
News Review #333: February 6, 2006

Korea, Japan Covered Up Kim Dae-jung Kidnap

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

Korea, Japan Covered Up Kim Dae-jung Kidnap
The Chosun Ilbo


In 1971, Kim Dae-jung lost to President Park Chung Hee in the Korean presidential election. In 1973, he visited Japan, when he was abducted from the Hotel Grand Palace on Aug. 8, 1973, taken to Seoul by boat, and released near his house in the city five days later.

Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department collected the fingerprints of First Secretary Kim Dong Un of the South Korean Embassy in Japan at the hotel where Kim Dae-jung was abducted, but the South Korean government ruled out the involvement of any government institution, leading to a diplomatic row between the two countries. Many in Japan suspected the involvement of Seoul's Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA).

It was an obvious breach of Japan's sovereignty. The act by the Korean government officials of kidnapping (anyone) would be breaking the law of Japan, and the Japanese police was denied the powers to pursue it. But the incident caused no direct harm to the people or the property of Japan. That is the reason, although people had a pretty good idea of what actually happened, the incident did not arouse much concern among the Japanese public - other than in casual chats when one would jokingly make remarks such as "The KCIA is going to get you if you don't behave well."

Furthermore, the fact that later Kim Dae-jung becoming the president of South Korea in 1998 (until 2003) and winning the Nobel Peace Prize reinforced the impression that the incident itself must have been a minor event, and thus the memory faded. It was just as intended at the "political" accord between Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka and South Korean Prime Minister Kim Jong Pil back in November 1973, to stifle the matter.

It is interesting to note that the release came out from the Korean archive upon their will, while the Japan's government apparently had no intention to disclose the relative documents. There is no sign of Japan's government responding, or exposing the relative information. Although the people may not very much be interested in the Kim Dae-jung incident any longer, the glimpse of the secretive nature of the government could casts a cloud over Japan's self-designated reputation to be a free and democratic nation.

Another point to be stressed here is that the kidnapping of Kim Dae-jung greatly differs from the issue of abduction of Japanese citizens by the North Korean government officials. Although a wrongful act, the Kim Dae-jung incident was an extension of domestic political feud in South Korea that did not cause direct harm to Japanese people. But the abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea were executed upon the scheme produced by its government that not only challenged Japan's sovereignty, but brought sorrow to abductees and their families, and fear to Japan's people generally.

As reported elsewhere, Japan and North Korea have re-started the bilateral talks in Beijing. The delegates spent nine hours Sunday discussing the issue of abductions of Japanese citizens. It has been further reported that despite the time consumed, not much progress was made.

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