Abductees’ kin watch videos of survivors

Relatives reiterate doubts about Pyongyang's claims, demand further probe

Relatives of Japanese citizens abducted to North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s met Thursday to watch videos of the surviving abductees and to discuss how to respond to the findings of a recent government mission to Pyongyang.

After watching the videos, taken by the mission, the relatives decided not to make them public and called on the government to conduct more in-depth investigations into the matter.

Relatives of 12 abductees — including the parents of Megumi Yokota, who was abducted from Niigata in 1977 at age 13 — attended the meeting at a Tokyo hotel along with government officials, including Kyoko Nakayama, a special liaison for the abductees’ relatives.

Families who were unable to travel to Tokyo on Wednesday to hear descriptions of the mission’s findings from Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe received briefings and photos of the abductees that the mission brought back.

“I was surprised at the outcome of the investigations yesterday, but this is not the end,” said Shigeru Yokota, Megumi’s father, at the outset of the meeting. “The fight to find out the truth is just beginning.”

Yokota said the relatives will demand that the government conduct more penetrating investigations.

Before the meeting, Akihiro Arimoto, whose daughter Keiko is said to have been talked into going to North Korea from Europe in 1983 and to have died in the North, reiterated his doubts about the information North Korea has provided.

Asked about reports that the mission obtained a photo of his daughter in North Korea, Arimoto said: “She was taken there, so of course there are photos of her. North Korea’s explanations are nothing but lies. It’s not just the families — many Japanese people also think so.”

The families have indicated that they want to prioritize the homecomings of the five surviving abductees and that they have no intention of visiting North Korea to see them unless those abducted are first allowed to return to Japan.

But they are expected to discuss the possibility of traveling to North Korea as the survivors reportedly told the mission they want to meet their families but are in no hurry to return to Japan, considering their children were born and raised in North Korea.

Tamotsu Chimura, whose son Yasushi was met by the mission in Pyongyang, told reporters he wants the Japanese government to bring his son and son’s family back to Japan “at any cost.”

Chimura said he came to watch the faces of his grandchildren on video, as the mission learned that Yasushi and Fukie Hamamoto, who were abducted together from Fukui Prefecture in 1978, were married in North Korea and have three children.

The government mission conducted a four-day investigation until Tuesday into North Korea’s claims that it abducted 13 Japanese and that eight of them have died.

Abe said Wednesday that the investigative team determined it could confirm the identities of the five surviving Japanese but, due to a lack of evidence, not those Pyongyang says have died.

The mission also met a teenage girl said to be Megumi Yokota’s daughter. North Korea said Yokota committed suicide in March 1993. The mission brought back samples of the teenager’s hair and blood for scientific analysis.

The mission was launched after North Korea informed Japan about the whereabouts of the 13 Japanese during Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visit Sept. 17 to Pyongyang for landmark talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

The Japanese government had made a list of 11 people thought abducted and taken to North Korea. But Pyongyang said there is no record of one of them ever having entered its territory and provided information about three others not on the list, including one of whom the Japanese side was not even aware.

Hirayama wants more

Niigata Gov. Ikuo Hirayama on Thursday urged Tokyo to further investigate North Korea’s abductions of Japanese, including missing people believed kidnapped but not on the official list of abductees, government sources said.

In a meeting with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda at the prime minister’s office, Hirayama told the government to actively delve into the issue. Hirayama said up to seven people have gone missing near the Sea of Japan coast in the prefecture and are believed to have been taken by North Korean agents. These people are not on Tokyo’s official list of 11 abductees.

Hirayama cited the cases of Takashi Osawa, a prefectural government employee who went missing in 1974 on Niigata Prefecture’s Sado Island at the age of 27, and Miyoshi Soga, who also went missing there with her daughter, Hitomi, at the age of 46 in 1978.

Soga’s daughter is among five Japanese abductees that Pyongyang has said are alive and well in North Korea.

“It is hard to believe (the explanations) with only the current information,” Hirayama said, referring to the reported causes of death of Megumi Yokota, seized by North Korean agents in Niigata in 1977 at age 13, and seven other abductees detailed in report Wednesday by a Tokyo investigative mission to Pyongyang.

Fukuda said the government will deal earnestly with Hirayama’s request.