As you can imagine, I come across a ton of wild news stories every day while scouring the web. But this one takes the cake. The Associated Press published a story about an ex-North Korean spy meeting with families of Japanese kidnapping victims. The abductees were taken by the North Korean government in the late 80’s. Her role is to inform Japanese agents about her former regime (AP Article).
Why was this story so compelling? Sure, spies have always intrigued me. But what threw me for a loop was that years ago this spy, Kim Hyon-hui, was convicted of blowing up a South Korean jet killing 115 people, and was then sentenced to death only to be pardoned, at least in part, because of her “classic good looks.” Huh?! Her beauty won the sympathy of the court. Seriously.
I kept re-reading the story because it was so bizarre to me. There’s no question that beauty can propel people forward in life, but help earn a pardon for a heinous crime? Wow! Deborah Rhode, author of the Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law, (see my post from June 6, Beauty Discrimination: Finally Fighting Back) must be having a field day.
The good news, though, is that Hyon-hui could have stopped there and lived a normal life as a hottie that got away with it. But she defied the “beautiful people are dumb myth,” becoming a best-selling author of books about her experiences as a spy. And now, she is working for the “good guys,” using her background to try to save lives. In a way, you could say her beauty wasn’t, ultimately, a vehicle for injustice but an instrument for good.