PAIR STUFFED INSIDE BAGS

Victims reveal details of North Korea kidnapping

Two Japanese abducted by North Korean agents in 1978 have told authorities they were kidnapped by four men and stuffed into separate bags before being taken out of Japan, according to sources.

The two, Yasushi Chimura and Fukie Hamamoto, later married each other in North Korea.

Both now 47 years old and living in Pyongyang, the two are among 13 Japanese people the North Korean government has acknowledged were either kidnapped or lured to North Korea between 1977 and 1983.

Officials of a Japanese government fact-finding mission who traveled to North Korea last month interviewed the couple in Pyongyang in late September.

The two were living in Obama, a Sea of Japan coastal town in Fukui Prefecture at the time of their disappearance.

According to sources with access to a full account of the interview, the couple told Japanese government officials they had a date on the night of July 7, 1978, and were sitting in a park in Obama when they were attacked from behind by the four men.

Chimura and Hamamoto said they were put into bags and transferred from vessel to vessel two or three times during their voyage to North Korea. The technique used in the abduction is similar to one used in the kidnapping of Hitomi Soga, another Japanese national who was kidnapped on Aug. 12, 1978.

Soga, 47, has also given an account of her kidnapping to Japanese investigators.

Chimura and Hamamoto said they were told separately after they were kidnapped that the other had been sent back to Japan. They were shocked when they met one year later in North Korea.

The couple got married on Nov. 25, 1979, in North Korea and have three children — a daughter and two sons.

Chimura said that after they were kidnapped she was told by North Korean officials that they were being taken to North Korea because the country “needs young Japanese for the sake the Korean revolution and reunification of the motherland.”

As in the case of Soga, Chimura and Hamamoto were made language instructors in North Korea. North Korean agents later assumed the identities of some of the abducted Japanese for overseas espionage operations.

Chimura said he was gagged during the ordeal and his hands were bound before he was put into the bag.

Hamamoto said her kidnappers loosened her ropes when they got to the beach. She said she remembers first being put into a rubber dinghy and later being transferred to a small motor boat and then to a fishing boat.

Chimura, who lives under the Korean name O Son Sam, currently works as a translator in the documents division of the institute of ethnology at the Academy of Social Sciences in Pyongyang.