OBAMA, Fukui Pref. – Yasushi Chimura, one of the five Japanese making their first homecoming since they were abducted to North Korea in 1978, said Wednesday he did not have a particular desire to return to Japan while he was living in the reclusive state.
“Honestly speaking, I did not imagine while I was in (North Korea) that I would be able to return to (Japan), nor did I have a desire to do so,” Chimura told reporters, adding that he never believed he could make a homecoming “so soon.”
Chimura met the media after he and his wife, Fukie Hamamoto, officially registered their marriage with authorities earlier in the day. The couple married in North Korea after they were kidnapped in 1978.
“Since the (Democratic People’s) Republic (of Korea) did not officially admit any abductions, I had thought, while living in the republic, that I would never be able to return (to Japan),” he said.
“I led a happy life (in North Korea) without any inconveniences, and since I got married with (Fukie), I did not have a desire to return (to Japan) as far as I recall,” he said.
About the two children he left behind in Pyongyang for the homecoming visit, Chimura said they do not know their parents are Japanese nor how they came to North Korea.
“I still do not know how I would explain this to the children,” he said. “I am talking with my father and relatives about that.”
The questions Chimura answered were submitted in advance at his request. He said he couldn’t answer some of the questions, including the circumstances in which he was abducted in 1978 as well as what had happened to other Japanese abductees who North Korea says have died.
Amnesty for Jenkins?
Japan has asked the United States to grant former U.S. soldier Charles Robert Jenkins, husband of Japanese abductee Hitomi Soga, a special amnesty, government sources said Wednesday.
Shinzo Abe, deputy chief Cabinet secretary, conveyed the request Monday in Tokyo to James Kelly, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, the sources said.
Jenkins, 62, is believed to have defected to the communist state in 1965 while he was a sergeant in a U.S. army unit deployed along the Demilitarized Zone, which separates North and South Korea.
Kelly, who met senior Japanese officials to discuss Pyongyang’s nuclear arms development, vowed to study the request, the sources said.
Other government sources said earlier that Jenkins, 62, told Japanese officials that he wanted to travel to Japan with the 43-year-old Soga, who is in Japan for the first time since her 1978 abduction. He was worried, however, that he might be arrested by U.S. authorities for defecting to the North.
Jenkins was concerned that he would be taken into custody or face a military tribunal if he accompanied his wife, according to sources familiar with the situation.
According to the Foreign Ministry, Jenkins met with Akitaka Saiki, deputy director general of the ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, and other Japanese officials on Oct. 15 in North Korea, before Soga boarded a chartered jetliner for Tokyo.
He had traveled to Pyongyang airport with the couple’s two daughters to see Soga off.
Asked by the Japanese officials whether he wanted to go to Japan with his wife, Jenkins replied that it would not be easy due to his uncertain status, the ministry said.
On Aug. 12, 1978, Soga, then a 19-year-old nursing assistant at a general hospital on Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture, was abducted along with her mother, Miyoshi, then 46.
The two were on their way home after shopping for groceries. Miyoshi’s whereabouts remain unknown.
Soga and Jenkins married on Aug. 8, 1980. They have two daughters — aged 19 and 17 — who are students at Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies.
On Tuesday, Soga told her former classmates in her hometown of Mano, Niigata Prefecture, that she wants to live on Sado Island. She said, however, that she must discuss this with her husband.
She added that her daughters have agreed to come to Japan to live with her.
Soga said she has already told her daughters that she is a Japanese national who was abducted to the North.
The four other abductees currently visiting Japan told their children in Pyongyang when they left home that they would be on holiday or on a business trip. The four said earlier that their children do not know their abduction stories.
The relatives of Soga, as well as those of the other four, have demanded that the government effect the permanent return of the abductees.