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Saturday, Sept. 21, 2002

Media coverage of abductions criticized


Staff writer

OSAKA -- Korean residents of Japan expressed concern Friday over what they feel has been excessive coverage by the Japanese media of the North Korean abductions but comparatively scarce debate over Japan's legacy of its colonial rule of the Korean peninsula.

"The excessive coverage of the abduction issue is partially due to rightwing elements in the media, and by rightwing politicians who support the families," said Jung Woo Suh, president of the Human Rights Association for Koreans in Japan. "These people are manipulating the abduction issue and the families, whipping up public anger in order to avoid a serious debate over Japan's own past actions on the Korean peninsula."

Since Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's historic visit to North Korea on Tuesday, most Japanese newspapers and TV stations have given heavy coverage to the families and their anger against only North Korea and the Japanese government.

While most ordinary Japanese expressed satisfaction with the overall result of the trip, which included discussions on a range of issues, it is Jung's opinion that the media coverage would have better served the Japanese and Korean communities in Japan had it also covered other issues involving Japan and Korea.

"Completely lacking in the media coverage so far is a historical perspective," Jung said. "Certainly, there has been almost no mention of the obvious fact that Japan kidnapped thousands of Koreans during the period of colonial rule."

Since news broke that eight of the abducted Japanese nationals have died, North Korean schools around Japan have reported receiving death threats against their students via telephone, and that their students have also been the victims of verbal harassment. Jung's group has called upon Osaka Prefecture to guarantee the safety of the students, and in a speech to be delivered at a North Korean-sponsored school Saturday, prefectural officials will formally condemn the actions.

Kim Jong Ui, international affairs bureau chief of the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents Japan's Osaka headquarters, said reporting on the abduction issue has been biased, adding his group is concerned over the long-term effects of the coverage.

"There are lots of issues between Japan and North Korea that need to be resolved," Kim said. "But it doesn't help anybody when all the Japanese media do is focus on the abductions issue and attack North Korea in an emotional way."

Kim said tensions remain high over the death threats and that while he believes some of the media coverage is directly responsible for the threats, there are no plans on the part of the North Korean community to formally protest the media's reporting of the issue.

"As the situation is still quite delicate, we have to be very careful that any protests on our part do not generate a further public backlash," Kim said.

Japanese told be 'calm'

Japanese should respect the human rights of Koreans living in Japan, Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama said Friday in response to the spate of death threats leveled at pro-Pyongyang residents, mostly children, in the wake of the recent Japan-North Korea summit.

"I cannot ignore reports about threats against Koreans in Japan and Korean schools after North Korea admitted abducting Japanese people, of whom eight have died," she said. "I expect people in Japan to remain calm."

The revelation of the abductions came Tuesday during the summit between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang.

Kawaguchi said she has ordered ministry officials dealing with human rights issues to strengthen measures for protect the rights of foreign residents of Japan.

In Osaka, where threats have been made against children at pro-Pyongyang schools, Gov. Fusae Ohta released a message to the children, saying it was terrible that death threats have been made against people who have no direct involvement in the abduction issue.

"The Osaka Prefectural Government will make further efforts to establish a society in which people will respect each other's human rights," she said in the message. "I hope you will be able to continue studying despite the mindless threats."



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The Japan Times

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