January 19, 2007

If we could just talk

The New Yorker film critic Anthony Lane adds a linguistic note to the end of his review of The Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story (1/22/07:91), about the agony of the parents of a young Japanese woman kidnapped in the 1970s by the insane DPRK regime (Megumi was never seen again; her poor parents never even got verified remains after her death): "The worst aspect is, as so often, the most prosaic: the main reason that North Korea stole human beings was because it needed language teachers for its spies. All that grief, just for a chance to talk." Indeed. Total isolation of a nation is not compatible with good access to language-learning opportunities. What the DPRK needed was not warm bodies but native speakers — something other countries can get via normal communications, and open borders, and immigration, and contact with foreigners. What a tragedy.

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at January 19, 2007 12:51 PM