Relatives of Terakoshi seek investigation

Relatives of Takeshi Terakoshi, who went missing with his two uncles in 1963, on Friday asked the government to investigate how the three men ended up in North Korea, claiming it may be an abduction case.

According to Terakoshi, the three men were on a fishing vessel and were shipwrecked in the Sea of Japan. He is currently making his first visit to Japan in 39 years.

Takeshi’s cousin Akio Terakoshi and other relatives handed the request to Akitaka Saiki, deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, in the morning.

“We have been quiet about this until today because we were afraid it might do some harm to Takeshi, but we decided to come forward now as there is a big move in abduction cases,” Akio Terakoshi later told a news conference.

Five Japanese nationals whom North Korea admitted to abducting 24 years ago are set to make a homecoming on Tuesday and will stay in Japan for about two weeks. It is the latest development in the abduction issue, which has long hampered bilateral negotiations to normalize ties.

According to the relatives, Akio’s father, Shoji, and uncle Sotoo Terakoshi went missing along with Takeshi. The relatives received a letter from Sotoo in 1987 that the three were living in North Korea.

Takeshi Terakoshi has said that his uncle Shoji had died March 30, 1967, after being hospitalized due to heart problems, while Sotoo died in 1994 of lung cancer.

Meanwhile, a former North Korean agent wrote in a book in 1998 that a North Korean spy ship captured Terakoshi’s vessel and shot Shoji dead as he struggled.

Although Takeshi maintains that he and his uncles were rescued by a North Korean ship after the shipwreck, the relatives raised doubts about Takeshi’s claim.

“Takeshi probably cannot talk about the truth because he is under strict surveillance,” Akio said. “And he was only 12 when he went missing. He probably did not realize he was being abducted to North Korea.”

Mitsuo Uchida, another son of Shoji Terakoshi, questioned the cause of his father’s death because the family received only a clod of earth from his father’s grave, and no remains.

“If he really lived and died in North Korea, there should be some remains. I want them back so that he can be with my mother again,” Uchida said. His mother died earlier this year.

Saiki reportedly told the relatives the government will take up the issue in upcoming talks with North Korea and demand accurate information about the case. The government is set to resume normalization talks in late October.

Missing-woman probe

NIIGATA (Kyodo) The family of a woman who disappeared in 1984 in Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture, asked a support group Friday to help them discover what happened to her, fearing she was abducted by North Korean agents.

The father and twin sister of Miho Yamamoto — 67-year-old Mitsuo Yamamoto and 38-year-old Misa Morimoto — met with Harunori Kojima, head of the group, to ask for his assistance.

The group, based in Niigata, has been trying to arrange the release of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea.

Kojima encouraged the two not to give up because it was the persistent assertions by the families of other people believed to have been abducted to North Korea that led to revelations that Pyongyang had indeed kidnapped 13 Japanese between the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Morimoto later told reporters that her sister’s case “has been taken up quite extensively by the media, but we do not have any direct clues. We came here today to ask (Kojima) to help us.”

Yamamoto disappeared at age 20 after leaving her home June 4, 1984, saying she was going to the library. Four days later, her handbag was found on a beach in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture.

The National Police Agency has not included Yamamoto among the 15 individuals in 10 cases it has formally recognized as suspected abductions by North Korea.

Yamamoto’s family wants the case to be reinvestigated now that North Korea has admitted to having kidnapped Japanese.

Voluntary questioning

The head of the National Public Safety Commission said Friday the government intends to urge the five Japanese abducted to North Korea to undergo voluntary questioning when they visit Japan next week.

“They are victims, so of course (questioning) will be made with their consent, but I do want them to undergo voluntary questioning,” Sadakazu Tanigaki told a news conference after a Cabinet meeting.

Tanigaki made his remarks ahead of the arrival Tuesday of the five Japanese, all of whom were abducted in 1978 and taken to North Korea.

Police plan to ask the abductees for information on how they were abducted and what they have been doing in North Korea.

The five, comprising two couples — Yasushi Chimura, 47, and Fukie Hamamoto, 47; and Kaoru Hasuike, 45, and Yukiko Okudo, 46, — and one woman, Hitomi Soga, 43, have simply been described by Pyongyang as living in North Korea.

North Korea informed Japan at the Sept. 17 summit between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Kim Jong Il that the five are alive, and that eight other Japanese it abducted or lured to the country are dead.