Across the coastlines of western Japan, starting in the 1970’s, a terrifying horror story was playing out. Lone fishermen weren’t coming home, women out on regular evening walks were lost forever, and young lovers were disappearing; engines still idling in their abandoned cars. Many of the vanished were dismissed as runaways, people deserting unwanted families for a new life, or even suicide. It wasn’t through incompetence that police forces failed to piece this together. Drawing a link between missing people, from different beaches, from different islands, sometimes hundreds of kilometres apart, just would have stretched credulity too far. And this still wouldn’t have got anyone to the implausible truth that the North Korean regime – directly guided by Kim Jong-il – was kidnapping Japanese citizens in the hope that they might become – or failing that help to train – his next generation of covert agents.