Sunday, September 23, 2007

[Japanese Film Festival] Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story (めぐみ 引き裂かれた家族の30年 / Megumi Hikisakareta Kazoku No Sanjyuunen)

Megumi Yokota

In 1977, Megumi Yokota vanished without a trace. For 20 years her family had tried to search for an answer, but found nothing, until it was revealed that she was amongst those who were abducted by North Korean spies.

The screening today opened with a video address dated in August 2007 by her parents. In it, they shared their experience in dealing with the shock, their efforts, and of course, their steely resolve in hoping that their daughter will be returned to them one day. Containing an ode to Megumi, it was a relatively short video address, but one which I thought summarized the entire movie succinctly.

It's an understatement to say that kidnapping is terrible, for both the victim and the parents. But one done without a ransom provided, leaves little clues to the parents, and here, sparked off intense sorrow that I'm sure any parent can identify with - the love and effort in raising a child, now so suddenly taken away with you, with zero trace. There's absolutely nothing to fall back on - no motive, no eyewitnesses, no prior abnormal behaviour noticed, nothing.

This documentary charts the 30 years of the time of the abduction until now. It tells of the journey and struggles of Megumi's parents, but provides as a launchpad, an introduction into a mystery unravelled. While the act of kidnapping itself might seem one-off and random, but the putting together of little facts gathered throughout Japan by investigative journalists provided the bigger picture, and ultimately, the ability to point a finger, suggest motives, and seek closure.

But closure is something not easy to come by. For those who have been following press reports in recent years, you might have read a bit about the incidents starting from Japan's ex-Prime Minister Koizumi's historic visit to North Korea, and the release of some of the abductees in return for food and medical aid. Diplomacy seemed to be the best, and the only course, for Japan to engage North Korea. North Korea has shown that it doesn't negotiate easily, and it tends to flip flop around given its poor track record and ambigious and conflicting, unconvincing evidences.

Abduction managed to piece together a compelling narrative, and at some times, horrifying too, at how random and perhaps senseless these acts are. But it does suggest some reasons why these Japanese were abducted, and mostly for espionage and training reasons, which seemed highly plausible. What was suspect though, and also not probed in depth, was interviews with the returned abductees. I thought that given it managed to talk to a North Korean defector, it would also be able to get those folks to open up. But perhaps they do not want to talk about their ordeal, or that it's classified information for confidential debriefing only, or like they mentioned, to ensure the safety of those still held by NOrth Korea, one will never know.

On a more personal scale, it charts the emotional turmoil and immense efforts by Megumi's parents to champion for the return of their daughter. Red herring, doctored evidence, and even something that should provide the most compelling evidence by far were all rebuted. It's understandable, and the documentary seemed to support and debunk whatever evidence that turns up. There's nothing like parents love, and this film captured all that. 30 years of hope and continued fighting for the truth shows all that. And it is their personal wish that these atrocities are made known to as many people as possible.

You can click on this link for more information.

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