Four fishermen in a 29-ton South Korean boat mistakenly cross the East Sea borderline, apparently due to a malfunction in their GPS; North Korea spirits them away. A South Korean stationed at the joint Kaesong industrial complex north of the border encourages a fellow worker to defect; North Korea spirits him away. Laura Ling and Euna Lee cross the China–North Korea border in search of some prized journalistic footage; North Korea spirits them away.
Next to public executions, no fear-based subjugation technique is finding more favor during this chaotic political time in North Korea than the upside-down border patrol. Along with increasingly harsh penalties directed at those who try to flee from the Dear Leader into China, it’s all part of an age-old attempt to keep the country’s 24 million or so non-privileged residents scared into submission.
It’s also, more troublesomely, a cornerstone of Kim Jong-il’s belligerent diplomatic M.O with sworn enemies South Korea, the United States and Japan (which has endured abductions of its citizens by North Korea). Think of it as the Amber Alert or milk carton approach to geopolitical matters.
This is how the North Korean government conducts all of its important business, interchanging things like nukes or food for real people and then holding these items hostage when dealing with other countries or its own, starving populace. And how might Kim Jong-il react if Macau, with a little ally cooperation, suddenly seized and held his oldest son Kim Jong-nam on some sort of trumped charge? I’m guessing about as calmly as he did when told that two luxury yachts on order from Italy had been intercepted by diligent authorities there.