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The North Korean abduction issue: emotions, securitisation and the reconstruction of Japaneseidentity from 'aggressor' to 'victim' and from 'pacifist' to 'normal'
Swedish National Defence College, Department of Security, Strategy and Leadership (ISSL), Political Science Section. Utrikespolitiska institutet.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7495-055X
The Free University of Berlin.
2015 (English)In: The Pacific Review, ISSN 0951-2748, E-ISSN 1470-1332, Vol. 28, no 1, 71-93 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

After Kim Jong-il's confession in 2002 that North Korean agents had abducted thirteen Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s, North Korea has become the most detested country in Japan, and the normalisation of bilateral relations has been put on the back burner. The abduction issue has taken precedence in Japan even over North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. It has also grossly overshadowed the atrocities for which Imperial Japan was responsible in the 20th century. Why has there been such strong emphasis on an issue that could be disregarded as comparatively ‘less important’? This article understands the ascendency of the abduction issue as the epitome of an identity shift under way in Japan – from the identity of a curiously ‘peaceful’ and inherently ‘abnormal’ state, to that of a more ‘normal’ one. The differentiation of North Korea as ‘abnormal’ emphasises Japan's own (claim to) ‘normality’. Indeed, by incarnating the perils of Japan's own ‘pacifist’ ‘abnormality’, which has been so central to the collective sense of Japanese ‘Self’ in the post-war period, the abduction issue has become a very emotional argument for Japan's ‘normalisation’ in security and defence terms. The transformation from ‘abnormal’ to ‘normal’ is further enabled by Japan trading places with North Korea in the discourse, so that Japan is defined as ‘victim’ (rather than former aggressor) and North Korea as ‘aggressor’ (rather than former victim). What is at stake here is the question whether Japan is ‘normalising’ or ‘remilitarising’, and the role of the abduction issue discourse in enabling such foreign and security policy change.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 28, no 1, 71-93 p.
Keyword [en]
abduction issue, emotion, identity, Japan, North Korea, securitisation
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
Statsvetenskap med inriktning mot strategi och säkerhetspolitik
URN: urn:nbn:se:fhs:diva-5751DOI: 10.1080/09512748.2014.970043ISI: 000346193600004OAI: diva2:893066
Available from: 2016-01-12 Created: 2016-01-12 Last updated: 2016-01-12Bibliographically approved

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