Abductees’ kin detail suspicions over death reports

Relatives of Japanese who were abducted to North Korea handed the government a list of their doubts Thursday concerning Pyongyang’s explanation of some of the abductees’ fates.

Shigeru Yokota, whose daughter, Megumi, was abducted from Niigata in 1977, gave the document to Kyoko Nakayama, a special adviser to the Cabinet Secretariat on the abduction issue. Megumi was 13 when abducted and is said to have died in North Korea.

Yokota, 69, asked Nakayama to dispatch a second government fact-finding mission to North Korea to gather more information about the abductees, particularly the circumstances surrounding the eight whom Pyongyang says are now dead.

Meanwhile, the government is conducting a separate review of data concerning the abductions and plans to seek clarification and more information from North Korea during upcoming talks aimed at normalizing bilateral ties.

Akitaka Saiki, deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Bureau, assured Yokota and the abductees’ relatives that efforts would be made to address their demands.

“We will bring all of the inconsistencies and doubts with us to the normalization talks in Kuala Lumpur,” said Saiki, who headed the first mission. “We will demand that North Korea promptly accept a second investigative mission.”

The normalization talks are scheduled to resume Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur after a two-year hiatus.

In the document handed over Thursday, the relatives expressed skepticism about the death certificates of seven of the eight abductees as the same hospital issued the certificates, even though most of the abductees reportedly died in different locations. The certificates were presented to the Japanese mission by North Korea in late September.

The association of families of the abduction victims is saying it is highly likely the certificates were forged.

North Korea provided no death certificate for Megumi Yokota, but the mission photographed a list of people admitted to and discharged from the hospital where Pyongyang said she committed suicide in 1993.

Megumi’s parents noted that the identification number for Ryu Myong Suk, the Korean name she is said to have used, is identical to that of the patient listed after her, according to the document.

The association also said two of the death certificates listed wrong dates of birth.

During Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s Sept. 17 visit to Pyongyang for talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, North Korea admitted that it abducted or lured 13 Japanese to the country between 1977 and 1983. It said eight of them died and five were living in the capital.

The five surviving abductees are currently in Japan, visiting for the first time since being kidnapped by North Korea in 1978.

Chongryun office fire

FUKUI (Kyodo) A small fire broke out on the premises of the Fukui Prefecture chapter of a pro-North Korean organization Wednesday evening in what appears to be an arson attack, local police said Thursday.

The fire was spotted at around 10:10 p.m. in a flower bed of the chapter grounds but was quickly put out by officials of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryun), police said. A plastic tank containing a liquid that appeared to be some sort of fuel was found about 1.4 meters from the site, with a cloth tarp on top of it.

There were no injuries or damage to the organization’s building, and the charred remains of something that appeared to be a towel were found along with a lighter and the cap of the plastic tank, police said.

At around 11:25 p.m., some newspapers received phone calls claiming responsibility for the incident, leading police to suspect an arson attempt.

“This fire was caused by the anger of a sincere Japanese at the way North Korea has dealt with the abduction issue,” a male caller was quoted as telling the papers in his phone messages.

Five Japanese who were abducted by North Korea in 1978 are currently visiting their hometowns in Fukui and Niigata prefectures for the first time in 24 years.

North Korea admitted last month it had abducted or lured 13 Japanese to the country in the late 1970s and early 1980s to use them for its espionage and intelligence activities. It claims that eight of those abducted are now dead.

Since the admission in the landmark summit in Pyongyang on Sept. 17 between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, there have been a number of death threats made against Korean residents of Japan, including against children at schools affiliated with Chongryun.

Fukui Chongryun officials expressed anger at the act, saying they have never been the victim of this sort of harassment before.