Podcast: The True Story of North Korea’s Abduction Project

Podcast: The True Story of North Korea’s Abduction Project

A rally celebrating the success of a recent nuclear test is held in Kim Il Sung square in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 13, 2016. KCNA/via Reuters
from Asia Unbound

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Diplomacy and International Institutions


On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, Robert Boynton, the author of The Invitation-Only Zone: The True Story of North Korea’s Abduction Project, takes us inside Pyongyang’s strange and sinister program to recruit spies and language teachers by seizing foreign nationals. More than a dozen Japanese citizens vanished from coastal cities without a trace in the 1970s and 1980s. These individuals were kidnapped, often drugged, and then transported to North Korea as part of a coordinated government effort that also included the abduction of other foreigners. Boynton presents a nuanced look at both the historical forces behind the abduction program and the experiences of individual abductees such as Kaoru Hasuike and Yukiko Okudo, a young couple grabbed from a Japanese beach and forced to live in North Korea for over two decades. What compelled the North Korean government to kidnap and re-educate foreign citizens and why did it take the Japanese government so long to respond? Listen below to find out and hear more about this riveting tale of espionage, diplomacy, and nationalism.

Elizabeth C. Economy

C. V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies