Terakoshi makes first visit since 1963

Kyodo

Takeshi Terakoshi, who has been living in North Korea since he was shipwrecked in the Sea of Japan while fishing in 1963, returned Thursday to Japan for his first homecoming visit.

Arriving at New Tokyo International Airport here, Terakoshi, 53, was greeted by his mother, Tomoe Terakoshi, 71, who has visited him several times in North Korea.

The two were to visit his hometown in Ishikawa Prefecture on Friday. The homecoming will be Terakoshi’s first since he disappeared while fishing with his two uncles in May 1963.

Terakoshi lives in Pyongyang and is vice chairman of a labor union in the North Korean capital. He is visiting Japan as a member of a North Korean union delegation.

He is expected to visit his ancestral graves in his hometown and attend a welcoming party before returning to Pyongyang via Beijing on Oct. 12.

His parents learned he was alive in 1987 from a letter they received from one of the uncles in the North. They visited him in Pyongyang that year, seeing him for the first time in 24 years. His mother has since visited him in the communist state 15 times and his father, Tazaemon Terakoshi, 81, moved to Pyongyang in July last year to live with him. Terakoshi arrived in Beijing on Tuesday and met with former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori at a Beijing hotel on Wednesday. He reportedly told Mori he cannot recall anything about his hometown and that he wants to devote himself to building friendly ties between North Korea and Japan.

In 1997, Terakoshi said through North Korean media that the boat on which he and his uncles were fishing had been wrecked at sea and a North Korean fishing boat rescued them.

He and one of the uncles later acquired North Korean citizenship. According to North Korea, both uncles died of illness in the country.

He told senior officials of the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo about his plan to visit Japan during their meeting in Pyongyang in August.

Terakoshi’s mother had once joined the parents of Megumi Yokota, who was abducted in Niigata by North Korean agents in 1977 at age 13, to protest Pyongyang’s kidnappings of Japanese. North Korea has told Japan that Yokota killed herself in 1993.

Terakoshi was also believed to have been abducted after the fishing boat was found deserted and drifting on the Sea of Japan.

However, his mother kept her distance from the families of other Japanese snatched by North Korean agents after Terakoshi denied he had been taken against his will.