Abductee told to take family to Japan: father


Yasushi Chimura, one of the five Japanese nationals on their first homecoming since being abducted to North Korea in 1978, was told by the North Korean government to go back to Japan with his family, his father said Sunday.

According to his father Tamotsu Chimura, 75, Chimura told him, “I was told by the North Korean government: ‘We don’t need you anymore. Go home with your family.’ But thinking that it would be hard for my children, who don’t understand Japanese, I decided to leave them in North Korea.”

His father also said that Chimura and his wife, Fukie Hamamoto, are undecided on whether to register their marriage in Japan.

This contrasts a statement issued Saturday through the Obama city government in Fukui Prefecture, in which Chimura and Hamamoto, both 47, revealed their intention to register their marriage and three children in Japan.

The statement also said the registry of their children “will be beneficial” for the children’s repatriation to Japan.

However, the elder Chimura, 75, said Sunday that his son had told him he didn’t care either way about the registration.

Chimura’s father is also afraid the couple could face trouble over the registration when they return to North Korea.

The couple were snatched by North Korean agents from Obama in 1978 and married the following year in North Korea.

Chimura is optimistic about being able to travel freely between Japan and North Korea sometime in the future as Tokyo and Pyongyang move closer to establishing diplomatic ties, according to his father.

Another couple among the five Japanese abductees — Kaoru Hasuike and Yukiko Okudo — said Saturday they will register their marriage in Japan.

Meanwhile, Obama City Mayor Toshio Murakami said Sunday he hopes to hire Chimura and Hamamoto as contracted employees of the Obama City government.

“If we urge them to come back, we must provide them with jobs,” he said. “Since this is the era of international exchange, we can think of jobs that can utilize their Korean language ability.”

Murakami also said that he has asked the central government to provide financial support to aid the permanent return of the abductees.

Grave sites visited

KASHIWAZAKI, Niigata Pref. (Kyodo) Kaoru Hasuike and Yukiko Okudo, visiting Japan for the first time since they were abducted together to North Korea in 1978, went to Okudo’s family grave site on Sunday in their hometown of Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture.

Dressed formally and carrying bouquets, Hasuike, 45, and Okudo, 46, arrived at the grave near Okudo’s home around 11:25 a.m.

Accompanied by their relatives, the couple then prayed and informed their deceased ancestors of their homecoming and marriage.

They were abducted to the North from Niigata Prefecture in July 1978 and got married in the communist country in May 1980.

On Saturday night, Hasuike spent time drinking with friends and relatives at his home and played mah-jongg with them for the first time in 24 years, according to his family.

Hasuike played until around 1 a.m. Sunday, his family said, as Okudo prepared drinks nearby.

Soga watches birds

MANO, Niigata Pref. (Kyodo) Hitomi Soga, one of the five Japanese nationals on their first homecoming since being abducted to North Korea in 1978, took a trip to observe crested ibises Sunday on Sadogashima Island, Niigata Prefecture.

Soga, 43, and her supporters visited the Sado Japanese Crested Ibis Conservation Center in the village of Niibo.

She had told her family that she wanted to see the precious birds when she returned to her hometown of Mano. Soga was abducted to North Korea from the island when she was 19.

Greeted by tourists and others at the center shortly after 10 a.m., Soga said, “Thank you” with a smile and shyly shook their hands.

Crested ibises are an internationally protected species and no longer exist in the wild in Japan.