'Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story': North Korea's Bizarre Kidnappings

“It’s unbelievable.” The first words spoken in Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story sum up the horror about to unfold.

“It’s unbelievable.” The first words spoken in Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story sum up the horror about to unfold. Directed by Chris Sheridan and Patty Kim and released in 2006, the film tells a story that is alarming to this day. In 1977, 13-year-old Megumi was walking home from school in Nigata, Japan, and disappeared. Her mother, Megumi's younger brother Tetsuya says, “Even though I was just a kid, I knew something big was happening.” Sakie, recalls worrying but not quite absorbing the profound loss before her. The camera hovers over the sidewalk where Megumi walked, looks up at tree branches that likely cast shadows over her. The sun sinks into a distant horizon, and a percussive soundtrack pulses, pushing forward, ever faster. The sea laps the shore, ominously.

The film pursues Megumi's disappearance by way of archival news footage and the family's efforts to keep the story visible, even after authorities dismissed it, saying the girl must have run away. When they discover, years later, that she's been abducted by North Korean agents, that's only the fist step in a much broader, even more unbelievable story. North Korea, it turns out, kidnapped at least 17 Japanese citizens between 1977 and 1983. This bit of history is the subject of the new book, The Invitation-Only Zone: The True Story of North Korea’s Abduction Project, by NYU journalism professor Robert Boynton, who will be on hand to take questions following the screening of the film at Stranger Than Fiction on Tuesday 9 February. The movie makes clear the cruelty of these kidnappings as well as their surreal nature. That they were planned and executed by a government whose policies remain disturbingly secretive and erratic is only more unnerving.

See PopMatters' review.


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