Families to ask abductees to come home

Video messages to be sent to North Korea with next fact-finding mission

The relatives of five surviving Japanese nationals abducted to North Korea said Tuesday they plan to send videotaped messages to their loved ones, urging them to return to Japan.

Their move arises out of suspicions over the videotaped messages brought back by a recent government fact-finding mission to Pyongyang. The relatives said the abductees appeared to be unable to express their true feelings in the video segments, citing the fact that none of them expresses any desire to return to Japan.

The relatives’ video messages are expected to accompany a second fact-finding mission the government will likely dispatch to Pyongyang by the end of the month.

The second mission is being dispatched because the first mission, sent to verify North Korea’s claims, failed to satisfy the demands of the abductees’ relatives and the government.

The abductees’ relatives said they will stage their video messages with hometown scenery in the background.

In a historic summit on Sept. 17 between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, Kim admitted and apologized for the past abductions of Japanese nationals. Pyongyang presented Japan with a list of 13 Japanese, eight of whom it said were dead and five alive.

The five include two couples who later got married in the North — Yasushi Chimura, 47, and Fukie Hamamoto, 47, abducted together in Fukui Prefecture; and Yukiko Okudo, 46, and Kaoru Hasuike, 45, abducted together from Niigata.

The five, all abducted in 1978, are among 13 Japanese the North Korean government has acknowledged were either kidnapped or lured to the North between 1977 and 1983.

Chimura’s father, Tamotsu, 75, said he will appeal to his son to return soon — even if it means fleeing North Korea. Tamotsu added that he will also urge his three grandchildren to accompany their father to Japan. North Korea said Chimura and Hamamoto have a daughter and two sons.

Hamamoto’s elder brother, Yuko, 73, said he will express his joy over her survival and wants to let her know he will wait in Japan for her.

Meanwhile, Kayoko Arimoto, 76 — whose daughter, Keiko, went missing at age 23 and is among the abductees North Korea has reported as dead — said she also wants to send a video message.

“All of us here are doing fine,” Keiko’s mother said she will tell her daughter. “Have a little more patience.”

Arimoto went missing in Copenhagen in 1983.

NPA adds four to list

The National Police Agency said Tuesday that it has added four people to its official list of Japanese abducted by North Korea.

The four are Hitomi Soga and her mother, Miyoshi, who disappeared together from Niigata Prefecture in 1978, and Toru Ishioka and Kaoru Matsuki, who went missing in Europe in 1980.

These additions bring the number of abductees on the government’s official list to 15.

According to the NPA, Soga, now 43, and her mother were attacked by men believed to be North Korean agents as they made their way home on Aug. 12, 1978, on Sado Island. Soga was taken to North Korea but the fate of her mother, who was 46 at the time, is unknown.

Toru Ishioka, from Sapporo, and Matsuki, from Kumamoto, were reportedly lured to North Korea from Spain in June 1980. Ishioka was 22 at the time, while Matsuki was 26.

North Korea has admitted abducting 13 Japanese, 10 of whom were on Japan’s official list. According to Pyongyang, five are living in North Korea while eight have died.

Hitomi Soga was on North Korea’s list of five survivors. She has been confirmed as living in Pyongyang with her American husband and their two daughters. North Korea has denied any knowledge of Miyoshi.

Ishioka and Matsuki are on the list of eight Japanese listed by North Korea as dead.

Soga told a recent government fact-finding mission to Pyongyang that she has not seen her mother since the attack.

The Niigata Prefectural Police inspected various locations on Sado Island on Saturday, following up on Soga’s account to the mission of her abduction. The NPA and police in Niigata determined there were no disparities between her account and the sites mentioned.

Soga said three men assaulted her and her mother as they walked home after shopping for groceries, according to the mission’s transcript of its interview with Soga.

The men gagged them and stuffed them into sacks, she said, adding that she was put on a small boat that carried her out to a larger ship at sea.

The Metropolitan Police Department sent investigators to Europe in September to look into the disappearance of Ishioka and Matsuki, who went missing more than 22 years ago.

The two men apparently went to North Korea on a voluntary basis, following two Japanese women they met in Europe. The women are believed to be the wives of two Red Army Faction members who took part in the hijacking of a Japan Airlines plane to North Korea in 1970.

A photo of Ishioka with two of the women, taken shortly before his disappearance, has been found.

In North Korea, Ishioka married Keiko Arimoto, who disappeared from Europe in 1983 at age 23, and the pair had a daughter. All three died of coal-gas poisoning in November 1988, according to North Korea.

A letter thought to have been written by Ishioka two months before he reportedly died states that he was living in Pyongyang with Arimoto and Matsuki.

North Korea claims Matsuki died in a traffic accident in 1996.