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During the 1970s and early 80s, dozens - perhaps hundreds - of Japanese civilians were kidnapped by North Korean commandos and forced to live in 'Invitation Only Zones', high-security detention-centres masked as exclusive areas, on the outskirts of Pyongyang.The objective? To brainwash the abductees with the regime's ideology, and train them to spy on the state's behalf. But the project faltered; when indoctrination failed, the captives were forced to teach North Korean operatives how to pass as Japanese, to help them infiltrate hostile neighbouring nations.For years, the Japanese and North Korean authorities brushed off these disappearances, but in 2002 Kim Jong Il admitted to kidnapping thirteen citizens, returning five of them - the remaining eight were declared dead.In The Invitation Only Zone, Boynton, an investigative journalist, speaks with the abductees, nationalists and diplomats, and crab fishermen, to try and untangle both the kidnappings and the intensely complicated relations between North Korea and Japan. The result is a fierce and fascinating exploration of North Korea's mysterious machinations, and the vexed politics of Northeast Asia.
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The extraordinary, true story of the North Korean abduction of Japanese citizens, kept for decades in 'invitation only zones', and indoctrinated by Kim Jong Il's secret police.

About the Author

Robert S. Boynton is the director of NYU's magazine journalism program and is the editor of The New New Journalism. His journalism has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, and many others.

Reviews

The book reads like a modern day episode of 'The Twilight Zone, except it's completely true. Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down Like Alice in Wonderland, the stories of the abductees reveal a society where logic has been turned upside down. Boynton's skillful reporting brings vividly to life a world that is enshrouded in mystery and paranoia. Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Prize author of The Looming Tower The Invitation-Only Zone is a rare feat of investigative reporting. Robert Boynton's relentless pursuit of the chilling story of Japanese citizens abducted to the outskirts of Pyongyang, brings us well inside the heavily-policed realm of Kim Il-Song and his son, Kim Jong-Il. Gay Talese Engaging reading, surreal in some of the Orwellian detail. Kirkus Review The Invitation-Only Zone is a compelling examination of one of the most shocking chapters in North Korea's contemporary history. Impressively researched and documented, it is a book which must be read by anyone seeking insight into the behavior of the Pyongyang regime and why it is regarded with such fear and loathing by its neighbors, especially Japan. Stephen Bosworth, ambassador to South Korea and Special Representative for North Korean Policy A fascinating and compelling account of the bizarre events that changed the course of recent Japanese history. Robert Boynton has probed beneath the media sensationalism that has so far surrounded the abductions, and revealed an extraordinary story with roots lying deep in the troubled history of Korea and Japan. Prof. Tessa Morris-Suzuki, Exodus to North Korea: Shadows from Japan's Cold War With poignant and lucid prose, Robert Boynton dignifies the lives of the victims of North Korea's state-sponsored abductions of Japanese citizens during the 1970s and 80s. Confronting complications and contradictions on all sides, it reveals a web of powerful forces and gives much needed dimensionality to a story fit for Hollywood. Prof. Alexis Dudden, Japan's Colonization of Korea In assessing the fallout, both political and personal, Boynton is at his most acute. The Independent

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