The rock star who defected to North Korea — and now regrets it – National


The Sixties had been a turbulent time. Assassinations, riots, civil rights protests, and offended opposition to the conflict in Vietnam. This unrest wasn’t confined to North America, both. It appeared that the entire world was about to come back aside on the seams.

Japan had its personal points. There was the Anpo battle, an on-again, off-again sequence of protests towards the post-WWII treaty that allowed the U.S. to take care of navy bases within the nation. Thousands had been concerned throughout the nation, typically leading to violent clashes with police. Along with college college students around the globe in 1968-69, Japan noticed daigaku funsō (“university troubles”) that took on the whole lot from the development of Narita Airport to the administration of post-secondary faculties.

One of probably the most harmful challenges to the established order got here from the Communist League, the precursor to the Japanese Red Army, a violent militant communist group that was ultimately rightly branded a terrorist group.

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This leads us again to Les Rallizes Dénudés, a psychedelic and experimental rock band fashioned at Doshisha University in Kyoto in 1967. The group, a merger between the creative ambitions of vocalist Takashi Mizutani and a radical theatre group referred to as Gendai Gekijo, itself wasn’t staunchly political, though they did carry out for protestors and college students through the late ’60s, together with an occasion referred to as the Barricades A Go-Go live performance in 1968. Individual members had been additionally sympathetic to and took part in each the Anpo battle and daigaku funsō, no another so than bass participant Moriaki Wakabayashi.

Wakabayashi was all-in when it got here to taking part within the Communist League’s Red Army Faction. On March 31, 1970, he was a part of a bunch (Kyosando Sekigunha) that hijacked Japan Air Lines flight 351, which grew to become referred to as the “Yodo-go” incident. The tremendous far-left Red Army Faction hoped to encourage a well-liked rebellion in Japan — a Soviet-style proletarian revolution — that will remake the nation because the headquarters for a better world revolution towards the U.S. and its allies.

About 20 minutes after the 727 took off from Haneda Airport (then referred to as Tokyo International) on a brief hop to Fukuoka, a Communist League member named Takamaro Tamiya popped out of his seat with a samurai sword, yelled that the airplane was being hijacked, and ordered the eight different members of the group — together with Wakabayashi — to attract their weapons: extra swords, metal pipes, and bombs. The pilots had been then ordered to fly the airplane to Cuba. Seven crew members and 122 passengers had been now hostages. (Takashi Mizutani had been provided a job within the hijacking however he declined.)

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One downside: The 727-200 had a most vary of 4,720 kilometres. The distance from Tokyo to Havana is over 12,000 kilometres. The plane didn’t have wherever sufficient gas capability to make the jumps over the Pacific. Clearly, the Communist League knew little about civil aviation.

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When knowledgeable of that inconvenient reality, the hijackers demanded that the airplane fly to Pyongyang in ultra-communist North Korea, a way more cheap 1,300 kilometres away, however a vacation spot that also required a refuelling cease. After touching down in Fukuoka to fuel up and to free 23 of the passengers, the airplane took off once more.

But authorities had a plan. Instead of flying to Pyongyang, the crew diverted the airplane to Kimpo Airport in Seoul, South Korea. By the time it landed, the airport had been staged to appear to be one thing in North Korea. The hijackers disembarked, considering that they had efficiently carried out their mission and will nonetheless one way or the other make it to Cuba the place they hoped to be educated as guerilla fighters.

When they entered the terminal, one thing appeared… off. Why was American jazz music enjoying over the PA? Where was the welcoming committee from Kim Il-Sung’s DPRK? Uh-oh.

The hijackers had been livid and promised no secure launch of the remaining hostages till they had been granted passage to North Korea the place they may search asylum. That gave the impression to be an affordable plan, so the calls for had been granted and the airplane flew to Mirim Airport within the North on April 3. Moriaki Wakabayashi was among the many defectors, surrendering himself to North Korean officers. He was fired from Les Rallizes Dénudés for apparent causes. Everyone was positioned on Interpol’s most-wanted listing. The complete incident was thought of a nationwide embarrassment for Japan.

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Although they had been initially welcomed as heroes of the nice socialist revolution — at the very least in public with navy medals and luxurious lodging in Pyongyang’s “village of the revolution” — issues didn’t end up so effectively for them. North Korea was aggravated that they had been the hijackers’ second selection behind Cuba and handled their undesirable friends accordingly.

One of the hijackers was arrested hiding in Japan after getting into the nation on a faux passport. Another was arrested in Thailand and deported again to Japan. Two hijackers, together with Takamaro Tamiya, died within the North. That leaves 5 survivors, amongst them Wakabayashi.

We know a little bit in regards to the defected rocker. In 1976, Wakabayashi married one other radical activist, one in every of a number of brides secretly flown in from Japan for the hijackers. His political beliefs softened dramatically, saying in 2010 that hijacking a airplane filled with harmless individuals was “a selfish and conceited” thought and that he’d gladly return to Japan to face trial. As far as anybody is aware of, Wakabayashi remains to be residing someplace in North Korea. His fellow hijackers pleaded to go house for many years.

Meanwhile, Les Rallizes Dénudés continued as a band till 1988 and reunited between 1993 and 1996. The group’s mysterious chief, Takashi Mizutani, saved a low profile, maybe lived in Paris for some time. Shows, recordings, and interviews had been few and much between. Rumours are that he died in 2019.


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