The Invitation-Only Zone: The True Story of North Korea’s Abduction Project

Robert S. Boynton. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-0-374-17584-9
The wackiness of North Korea’s government is a staple of TV comedy, but the reality is more grim, as journalist Boynton (The New New Journalism) relays in this disturbing account of the current regime’s kidnappings. In 1977, North Korean agents began abducting young Japanese citizens for reasons that remain unclear; they probably hoped to convert the victims to loyal Communist subjects who would return to Japan as spies. By the early 1980s, the project fizzled out, but the abductees remained in North Korea. In 2002, after years of protest, North Korean officials admitted that a few Japanese were in their country against their will. They returned five abductees. Observers, Boynton included, agree that many remain. In his narrative, Boynton alternates among heartrending stories of the abductees, a history of Japan that emphasizes its disgraceful treatment of Korea, and records of the Japanese government’s incompetence in handling the issue once it became known. In light of the bizarre and tragic nature of North Korea’s Juche system (its state ideology), this particular series of events may seem inconsequential, but Boynton has done his homework well, converting the suffering inflicted on a few dozen individuals into an eye-opening and surprisingly moving narrative. Maps & illus. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/23/2015
Release date: 01/12/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 978-0-374-71266-2
MP3 CD - 978-1-5113-9292-1
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-374-53672-5
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