Following an investigation into a series of abductions a Japanese newspaper has accused North Korea of seizing foreign citizens during the rule of Kim Jong-il.
Tokyo Shimbun claims to have acquired a secret manual which contains instructions for North Korean agents on how to abduct foreign citizens abroad and not be captured. The document is thought to have been produced in the late 1990s, writes Justin McCurry in The Guardian.
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Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents to teach spies
The report, which was published this week, adds credibility to Japanese accusations that North Korea maintained a network of spies that were taught to seize foreigners. The abductions were previously thought to have been the work of rogue agents.
Japanese officials believe that 17 of its citizens were taken in the 1970s and 80s, shipped off to North Korea to teach Japanese language and customs to North Korean spies. The classified document runs to 356-pages and was used at Kim Jong-il Political-Military University, which the newspaper claims is a secretive intelligence institute in North Korea.
NK News reports that one section educates spies on how to abduct foreign citizens. “To abduct the target, one has to know the target’s address, where the target enters and exits, day-to-day traffic routes, means of transportation and their timeline as well,” it says.
Later on it recommends “terminating” targets who resist, and says that there shouldn’t be “a single trace” of evidence left behind. According to Tokyo Shimbun the document provides evidence that the North Korean leadership encouraged overseas abductions.
Newspaper claims manual is genuine
Other analysts have called into question the authenticity of the document due to the fact that it uses the South Korean-style word for “abduction.” The newspaper responded that the South Korean-style writing may have been used to help spies assimilate, and South Korea was the number one target for abductions at the time.
“The people involved in the story are in no doubt that the document is genuine,” said a Tokyo Shimbun journalist who reports on North Korea.
Investigations are ongoing related to at least 12 people that the Japanese government says were taken by North Korea. Five abductees were released in 2002 following a summit between then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
Japan insists that other abduction cases be resolved
North Korea claims that 8 of the remaining 12 are dead, but Japanese refuses to believe the story. According to officials in Pyongyang, some are said to have died in strange accidents, while another four never entered the country.
One of the missing abductees, Megumi Yokota, was 13 when she was taken on her journey home from school in Niigata in 1977. North Korea says that she killed herself in 1994 after a bout of depression, but tests on the remains handed to Japanese authorities showed that the DNA did not match. There were also several errors on her death certificate.
Shortly after her arrival in North Korea it is thought that Yokota was transferred to a spy training facility. According to a South Korean source quoted by Kyodo News, she studied Korean for three years before teaching Japanese until the mid-1980s. She allegedly married a fellow abductee from South Korea and had a daughter.
Manual may not help Japanese negotiators
Talks between the two nations broke down after no progress was made towards resolving the remaining abductions. Japan has refused to normalize relations with North Korea unless the abductions are resolved.
As interesting as the manual may be, assuming it is genuine, it is not clear how it could help Japanese negotiators. “But the families of the abductees and their supporters can now point to this document as proof that North Korea systematically organised the abductions,” the Tokyo Shimbun reporter said. “That will enable them to put pressure on the Japanese government to do more to settle the matter.”
Families of the abducted may try to use the document as leverage with the Japanese government, but negotiations with North Korea are a completely different matter. The current ruler, Kim Jong-un, appears to be convinced that North Korea has no need to maintain relations with the outside world, which makes the secretive nation even more unpredictable and dangerous.
Kim has even gone so far as to defy long-term ally China, which is becoming increasingly exasperated with North Korea’s erratic and provocative behavior. If China cannot use its economic and political leverage to keep Kim in line, there would appear to be little hope for Japan and the families of the abductees.