Criminal complaint filed over alleged role in abduction

Kyodo

A group working on behalf of relatives of the Japanese abducted to North Korea filed a criminal complaint with police Friday against a Kobe noodle shop owner who allegedly was involved in the kidnapping of an employee in 1978.

The Hyogo prefectural branch of the group submitted the complaint to the prefectural police, alleging that the man, who would now be 63 and who ran the Kobe shop in 1978, knowingly took part in the abduction to North Korea of Minoru Tanaka, who was 28 at the time.

The owner, whose name was not provided, also ran a noodle shop in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, until around 2000, but his current whereabouts is unknown.

Police are considering accepting the complaint, police sources said.

A senior prefectural officer told a prefectural assembly committee in September that police were investigating and had “serious concerns.”

According to the complaint, the noodle shop owner, acting on the orders of the North Korean government, conspired with Pyongyang’s agents in Japan and abroad to abduct Tanaka. The owner managed to get Tanaka to go to Austria, and he was eventually taken to North Korea.

Tanaka departed from Japan on June 6, 1978, at Narita airport in Chiba Prefecture, and was never heard from again.

In 1997, a confessed North Korean agent claimed Tanaka had been employed by the owner of a noodle shop in Kobe and taken to North Korea via Vienna.

The group also said one of Tanaka’s acquaintances, a Korean man living in Japan who had introduced him to the noodle shop, has been missing since 1979.

The group suspects the man may also have been abducted to North Korea because, after Tanaka disappeared, the man received a letter in Tanaka’s name asking him to go to Austria so he could introduce him to a potential employer.

The statute of limitations for a trial involving an abduction of someone to an overseas destination expires after seven years. The group claims, however, that it has not expired because the criminal act is not finished and there is a possibility that the suspect has defected.