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The Mutual Constitution of the Abductions and North Korean Human Rights Issues in Japan and Internationally

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The abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s figure prominently in Japanese conceptions of the North Korean human rights issue. In the past decade, global discussions about North Korean human rights have also come to include these abductions, the final report of the UN Commission of Inquiry in 2014 being a prime example. How did the abductions and North Korean human rights issues become so interconnected? I argue that these issues are mutually constitutive. Japanese state and non-state actors’ promotion of the abductions issue at home and abroad benefitted international advocacy for North Korean human rights and led to the integration of the abductions issue into the global North Korean human rights agenda. It also promoted awareness of North Korean human rights in Japan. Original interviews and content analysis of UN resolutions, Japanese media coverage, prime ministers’ speeches, and government publications empirically demonstrate the mutual constitution of local and international activists’ discursive messages. This article advances scholarship about feedback loops between local and international activism.

Keywords: Japan; North Korean abductions; North Korean human rights; activism; discourse; framing

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2018

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