Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story

2007, Movie, NR, 85 mins


On the morning of Nov. 15, 1977, 13-year-old Megumi Yokota left her house in the Japanese coastal town of Niigata and headed off for school. Her mother, Sakie, knew she had badminton practice after classes, but when night began to fall and Megumi still hadn't returned home, Sakie began to worry. As she and her husband, Shigeru, began frantically searching the neighborhood for some sign of their daughter, Sakie imagined the worst: Megumi was being held by kidnappers for ransom, or perhaps she'd been sexually assaulted. The truth, however, would prove to be far more unbelievable, and wouldn't become known to the Yokota family for several years to come, when a defecting North Korean spy confirmed a newspaper story that had been published two years after Megumi's disappearance. Megumi, it turned out, was one of an untold number of Japanese citizens who, during the late 1970s, were kidnapped by North Korean agents from beaches near their homes, secreted away on a North Korean ship and carried off across the Sea of Japan to an unknown fate in a highly secretive country. (The official number of Japanese abductees is 35, but some estimates put the true number, which doesn't include victims from other countries, closer to 100.) Most of the victims were in their twenties and thirties — Megumi looked older than her actual age, and her kidnapping was probably a mistake — and, according to the defecting North Korean source, they had been taken in order to teach undercover Korean agents and potential terrorists how to speak and behave like native Japanese. The revelation would shock the Japanese public. But since it came at a time when the Japanese government was in the midst of its first tentative diplomatic relations with the fearsome nuclear power to the west, little would be done to learn of the victims' current whereabouts or demand their return. This gripping documentary from Chris Sheridan and Patty Kim begins with the details of Megumi's abduction, then widens its purview to include the stories of her fellow abductees, their heartbroken and confused families, and their tireless efforts to stir the Japanese government into action. The film unfolds with all the heart-stopping suspense of a true-crime expose that sheds light on the twisted policies of Kim Jong-il's strange and secretive nation. At heart, it remains a wrenching human-interest story about a group of family members who refuse to allow their loved ones to become casualties of international diplomacy by simply disappearing. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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