Chapter 75 – Trouble with the Rightwing2019
BETWEEN FOUR WORLDS: CHINA, RUSSIA, JAPAN AND AUSTRALIA.
BETWEEN FOUR CAREERS and FOUR LANGUAGES
2. The Warning
3. The Abductee Issue
With time I began to feel my lecture audiences were not reacting quite as sympathetically as before.
Maybe it was partly my fault; my irritations over Japan’s foolish economic, foreign and education policies were beginning to influence my lecture style.
Suffice it to say that one day I got a fairly blunt request from my Jiji sponsors to keep away from criticising Japan’s position on the Northern Territories question.
There was also a sharp reduction in their lecture requests.
The Jiji warning I could have lived with. They were a fairly rightwing news-agency outfit, and their lecture circuit was less than greatly rewarding or exciting.
(Kyodo, their more interesting, progressive but less prolific rival, had dropped me years earlier when they knew I was with Jiji.)
But it was not till I ventured into the North Korean abductee issue that the shutters really began to come down.
2. The Warning
The first warning that I needed to be careful came with a vicious attack on something I had written for a conservative business magazine, Zaikai-jin (Business People).
In the context of the North Korean abductee question I had pointed out that Japan had also abducted Chinese and Koreans to work in Japan in the war years, and their work had been a lot more strenuous than acting as language teachers (the jobs allegedly given to Japanese abducted to North Korea).
The death rate had been tremendous.
A powerful right-winger deep into construction industry corruption wrote to the magazine demanding a retraction and apology.
He repeated the usual argument – that Korea was under Japanese control and Japan had every right to conscript Koreans for wartime labor in Japan (yes, but not for the brutal labor imposed on them and without right of return).
The Chinese, he said, had come willingly seeking higher wages.
(In fact the press-ganged Chinese had been put into camps in China and then onto boats to Japan where the death rate was almost as high as in the places where later they were forced to work.)
My column with the magazine was cancelled. They clearly did not want to give offence to their rightwing sponsors.
But I could live with that too. I should not have been with them to begin with.
(My initial contact came from them wanting me to get Rupert Murdoch to accept their award for top international businessman of the year.)
What I had not expected was the flood of hate mail sent to my university and Akita prefecture, asking why this anti-Japan type was being allowed to pollute the minds of young Japanese.
Someone either was organising the mail, or the rightwing was much stronger than I had realised.
Failing that, the population at large was much more sensitive to the abductee question than I had realised.
Even more ominously, the lecture and interview requests had begun to run down very quickly.
That really did hurt. It meant I was losing my standing in Japanese society – a standing that for more than 20 years I have been working to create.
My university was good enough not to bow to the pressure. But it was clear that for them too as a family right-leaning organisation I was damaged goods.
3.The Abductee Issue
In particular I had under-estimated how national sentiment had been aroused by this issue – by the thought that its citizens could be captured and held by a nation such as North Korea.
I had thought that since Koizumi (or rather his handlers) had done so well with the 2002 request to North Korea to release the five known surviving abductees, one could safely criticise the rightists, Abe Shinzo especially, who were trying to prevent any continuation of the policy of reconciliation.
The release of the five had resulted in the remarkable 2002 Pyongyang Declaration, signed by both Koizumi and Kim Jong Il, under which both sides had promised normalisation of relations, cooperation on North Asia policies, economic aid and a moratorium on missile testing.
But Japan’s rightists, opposed to any normalisation of relations with North Korea, claimed there were many more abductees (some said more than 800) who had to be released.
Included was one Yokota Megumi, abducted when still a school girl (probably because she witnessed another abduction nearby.)
Reportedly she had since married, had a daughter, and suicided in 1994. But Tokyo insisted she was still alive.
North Korea had then provided cremation bones to prove Megumi and one other disputed abductee had in fact died.
But Abe produced an alleged DNA bone tester to say the bones were fake.
I had then pointed out how a leading Western scientific magazine – Nature – had stated the DNA testing of those bones was impossible.
In other words the government of Abe Shinzo possibly was not telling the truth.
But that did not stop it from launching a massive campaign to elevate the image of an allegedly alive Yokota Megumi, and her grieving parents, into symbols of the abduction tragedy
It was insisting there could be no normalisation of relations unless all the remaining abductees they said were missing had been returned—a total of 17 they insisted (far less than the 800 or more the right-wingers had claimed earlier, incidentally).
Pyongyang insisted these 17 people had either died (mainly in accidents) or had never entered North Korea.
Since it was unlikely Pyongyang was lying (they were already salivating over the 100 million USD they expected with the resolution of the abductee issue) one has to assume that the aim of Abe and his rightist supporters was to destroy the breakthrough to North Korea that Koizumi had pioneered.
I tried to point out how keeping faith with the 2002 promises and opening relations with Pyongyang would have made it that much easier to find and get more abductees released – if indeed they existed.
It would also have helped remove the nuclear threat that Japan said it feared.
But even as I spoke I could feel the audiences freeze. They did not want to hear such details.
They could not get over the horror of Japan’s sovereignty being breached by those despised North Koreans.
Before long the rightwing, whose existence and power I had always felt but from which I had felt immune because of the way Japan Inc. had liked my theories about Japanese culture and success, began to move.
I was on their blacklist. And they were about to strike.