Fri, Feb 22, 2019 - Page 5 News List

FEATURE: Ghost of North Korea propaganda still haunts

AFP, NIIGATA, Japan

She tried to hint to her family not to come in letters, hoping to fool censors who immediately imprisoned and often “purged” anyone who complained.

It took her 10 years — and 18 months hiding in China — but Kawasaki eventually escaped back to Japan.

Manabu Ishikawa, 60, once known as Lee Jay Hak, recalls living off scraps of grain at poultry farms that were considered unfit even for animals.

He has never been able to erase the memory of a small girl, maybe nine or 10, dying of starvation on the street.

“She was actually smiling ... with relief, clutching a piece of bread in her hand,” he said.

Ishikawa fled to China in 2001 — his wife and two sons followed later — but many more were not so fortunate.

The Chongryon accepts no criticism of the program.

“It was a campaign to protect the rights of Koreans in Japan, the freedom to return to their fatherland,” said O Gyu Sang, a historian at the pro-Pyongyang body.

“If they had lived without discrimination and had jobs to make a living, not so many would have gone... Japanese politicians too must have thought it was a good chance to get rid of annoying Koreans,” he said.

The effects still reverberate. Last year, five former returnees, including Kawasaki and Ishikawa, sued North Korea and the nation’s leader, accusing them of “national kidnapping” and demanding those returnees left in the country be free to travel.

The Tokyo District Court is expected to hear the case, lawyer Atsushi Shiraki said.

“I dropped my Korean name long ago,” Kawasaki said, partly to stay anonymous and protect her four children still living in the North.

“I do not want to die without seeing my family again, but I cannot see them unless North Korea ends its rights violations,” she said.

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