“Only Democratization of North Korea Can Free the Abduction Victims”

Japan’s first broadcasting company toward North Korea, Shiokaze’s director Araki Kazhiro said in an interview that North Korean abduction incident could only be solved through democratization of North Korea.

The Daily NK interviewed Mr. Araki on Thursday in Seoul Tourists’ Hotel to ask the reason for starting broadcasting toward North Korea and Shiokaze’s achievement so far.

Shiokaze started to broadcast toward North Korea a year ago and has been sending messages to the Japanese abduction victims in North Korea, clarifying its vision on North Korean democracy.

Araki, who realized the reality of North Korea while working for the abduction victims, said that Shiokaze not only aimed at the abductees in North Korea but also North Korea’s democratization and liberation of twenty million North Korean people.

According to Araki, there is no viable solution to deal with abduction victims of Japan and South Korea, and Shiokaze is expecting to cooperate with South Korean broadcasting programs beamed at North Korea, and broadcast more effective and broad programs.

Shiokaze is worthy to be noted because of its quality of broadcasting programs through variety. Sometimes families of the Japanese abductees broadcast, and North Korean refugees also send messages of freedom and hope to the North Korean residents. Also, radio letters to North Korean leaders asking them to repatriate abductees back, too.

Although there is no North Korean refugee who listened to Shiokaze in North Korea, but the company is trying to suggest how to escape from North Korea and the way to send letters to the families in Japan.

There is an increasing number of financial supporters and volunteers for Shiokaze as its activities have become known to the Japanese public.

Following is the interview with director Araki;

– Please introduce yourself to the Daily NK readers

Currently, I am working as a director of Shiokaze Broadcasting. Until the year 2003, I had taken a position of director in ‘Organization for Rescuing Japanese Abductees in North Korea.’

Since 1996 when I read about Yokoda Mekumi, I have been interested in abduction victims. At that time, Japanese government neither realized the seriousness of abduction incident nor tried hard to rescue the abductees. So I decided to do it by myself.

– Why did you start broadcasting to North Korea?

As known, North Korean residents have no way to obtain information of the outside. For the abductees, it is even harder. So I established a broadcasting company to send information to the North Korean people. I have not met a refugee who listened to our program while in North Korea, but a Japanese TV company official said that he listened to Shiokaze. Although it cannot be confirmed, I am sure that somebody in North Korea is listening to us.

Moreover, most of the abduction victims were kidnapped in the 70s, so more than 30 years have passed. We cannot wait more. But in order to solve the abduction problem, North Korea has to change first. So we decided to send messages urging change to North Korea.

Many of the abductees, who have been living in North Korea for long, might have lost hope for return, but we will tell them not to give up and we’ll rescue them someday.

-‘Shiokaze’ is the first broadcasting company to North Korea…

[imText2]I heard that there are several radios toward North Korea in Seoul, but in Japan, Shiokaze is the only one. We receive much attention. Also, more people are helping us and volunteering as we are known to help rescue of abductees and broadcast for North Korean democracy. Although Japanese government is not particularly helping our activities, Cabinet Minister Abe said the government is interested in us.

– Any difficulties since the first broadcast last October?

There is no specific difficulty except for North Korean jammer, but we soon resumed broadcasting by changing time and frequency.

– You argue that abduction problem can be solved

At first, I worked for freeing the abductees. And I understood North Korea through my activities. Especially after 1997, I changed my mind as I learned about North Korea’s human rights abuse that unless North Korea’s totalitarian regime is changed, there can be no improvement of human rights and only if North Korea is democratized then abduction problems will be solved.

– What is your purpose of visiting South Korea?

First of all, I came here to cooperate with South Korean broadcasting companies, such as Free North Korea Broadcasting (Free NK), and Radio Free Asia (RFA). If we collaborate with them, the quality of our program will be better.

Also, I met South Korean abduction victims and those who work for North Korean human rights and democracy. Shiokaze will introduce their activities and it will encourage North Korean residents and abduction victims.

– Some South Korean people complain that Japan only talks about Yokoda Mekumi

That is a misconception. Mekumi just represents all the Japanese abduction victims. We don’t disregard other abductees. We are trying to solve the abduction problem through Mekumi. And Mekumi is special because she was kidnapped as a young middle school student.