Foreign Ministry hit over abductions

An advisory panel tasked with examining reform of the Foreign Ministry criticized the ministry Wednesday over its handling of the issue of Japanese abducted to North Korea, according to panel head Yoshihiko Miyauchi.

“There were opinions that the ministry was unable to respond to citizens with warmth and that there is a misplaced sense of elitism (among ministry officials),” Miyauchi, chairman of Orix Corp., said after a morning meeting of the “panel for change.”

Miyauchi said that although panel members refrained from elaborating on specific matters, he understood they were referring to the ministry withholding information it received from North Korea about the dates of the deaths of eight abducted Japanese.

The ministry received a list from North Korea featuring the names, dates of birth and death dates of eight Japanese on Sept. 17, then failed to convey this information to the abductees’ relatives for two days.

Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said earlier that ministry officials probably withheld the information out of a misplaced concern for the families. , believing the distribution of unofficial information could lead to confusion.

On an unrelated note, panel members also recommended the ministry provide more details relating to its operations, such as notification documents issued within the ministry to implement reforms.

In August, Kawaguchi announced an action plan based on a reform recommendation report she received from the panel in July.

In March, Kawaguchi commissioned the advisory panel of outside experts to come up with ideas aimed at improving the operations of the ministry, which has been tainted by a variety of money and other scandals.

Wednesday’s meeting was the panel’s second focusing on how the ministry is implementing its reforms.

Miyauchi said a third meeting will be held Nov. 12.