In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I am profiling one Asian or Pacific Islander MP for every day of the month of May. Today’s case is actually two cases, the missing siblings Kianna Joanna Berg and Gunnar David Berg.
The children, who are half white, half Japanese, were abducted by their mother, Naoko Numakami, from their Fairfax, Virginia home and taken to her native Japan. They were eight and nine years old at the time.
Naoko told Kianna and Gunnar’s father that she was just taking the kids to Japan for a vacation, but once in that country she refused to return them. He hasn’t seen them since.
Unfortunately for the kids’ father, it’s probably going to stay that way. I don’t know if there are ANY cases where the Japanese government actually agreed to return an internationally abducted child. I don’t think family courts, as such, really exist there.
Both kids are now over eighteen and could choose to go back to the US on their own if they like, but my guess is that like many family abduction victims, they’ve been alienated against their left-behind father.
The father of Kianna and Gunnar Berg wrote to me today. He didn’t recognize one of Kianna’s photos and wanted to know its origin. He said he thought it might provide clues to her location. Unfortunately I had to disappoint him; the photo came from Kianna’s NCMEC poster.
Gunnar and Kianna were taken by their non-custodial mother to Japan 20 months ago. They haven’t had contact with their father since then and he doesn’t know where they’re at, though given the recent problems in Japan he must be worried sick. But I have heard that there’s the possibility that American citizens in Japan (including parental abduction victims) may be evacuated to the US in the light of all that’s been going on there. I told Mr. Berg that — in case he didn’t already know. I hope that happens, and a little good can come of all that tragedy.
Out of curiosity, I checked to see how many family abduction kids on Charley are thought to be in Japan. I believe there are about 20. A few have been gone for over ten years.
If the fathers of Haydn Gomez and Gunnar and Kianna Berg haven’t gotten together for a beer yet, maybe they ought to. The two men have a lot in common. Both are Americans who married East Asian women and had adorable little kids by them, only to see their wives snatch the kids to their respective countries and refuse to give them back. And they live in the same town too: Fairfax, Virginia.
Alas, international child abduction can become a problem if an international marriage breaks up, as evidenced by another case I posted today, where the victim is thought to be in Zambia. International family abductions are even worse than the domestic kind, because finding the kid is almost never the end of the story. The two countries involved rarely agree as to what’s to be done with the child. Usually each nation will side with whichever parent is their citizen, which solves nothing, and so the custody issue is unresolved and the child usually stays with the abductor or at least in the abductor’s country, for years. I can’t think of a way to prevent this from happening. I mean, nobody marries thinking they’re going to get divorced, and no prenuptial agreement can prevent a selfish and/or vengeful parent from packing up the kid and heading off to the motherland, never to return.
I do hope Mr. Berg and Mr. Gomez will have their children returned to them, but I have to say the chances don’t look good for either of them. Japan in particular has a terrible record for returning abducted kids to the US. I’m not sure it has EVER done so.