Yokotas slam media over granddaughter interview

The grandparents of a 15-year-old North Korean girl lashed out at a television network and two major newspapers Saturday for asking what they considered to be inappropriate questions in an interview with the girl.

Shigeru and Sakie Yokota criticized the interview, which took place in a Pyongyang hotel Friday and was aired on Fuji TV later that night.

“The questions asked were difficult to answer, just like police questioning,” said the girl’s grandfather, Shigeru Yokota, 69. “There were many questions that should not have been posed to a child.”

His daughter, Megumi, was abducted by North Korean agents in Niigata Prefecture in 1977 at age 13. Pyongyang claims she is dead.

“There were too many parts showing her crying. This kind of interview is exasperating to us family members,” Yokota told a press conference.

The girl, Kim Hye Gyong, was confirmed Thursday through DNA testing to have a blood relationship with Megumi and the Yokotas. She said tearfully in the interview that she wants her grandparents to visit her in North Korea.

The grandparents were shown footage of the interview before it was broadcast. The girl’s 66-year-old grandmother, Sakie Yokota, said she walked out in the middle of the interview and cried her heart out in a car because she could not stand the “merciless” situation.

“There were really tough questions that should not be posed to such an innocent girl and I felt so sorry for her that I couldn’t keep watching the video,” Sakie said.

In the interview, conducted jointly by Fuji TV, the Asahi Shimbun and the Mainichi Shimbun, reporters started out by asking Kim details about herself. They went on to ask whether she knew her mother had been abducted from Japan and what she knew about the two countries’ current relationship.

Teruaki Masumoto, whose sister Rumiko is also on Pyongyang’s list of dead Japanese abductees, criticized the North Korean administration of Kim Jong Il for using the girl in a propaganda bid.

Masumoto said he thought it strange that Kim Hye Gyong described Japan as a geographically close, but otherwise distant country, although she had earlier admitted not knowing much about it.

He also said the girl’s stated desire to work in the future for the Workers Party of Korea was strange. Kim said it would be an honor to be a member of North Korea’s ruling party.

Asked about Tokyo-Pyongyang ties, Kim said she hopes the relationship will be normalized in the future so she can go freely to Japan to meet her grandparents.

“What a merciless country (North Korea) is,” said Masumoto, a senior member of an association of families of abducted Japanese. He said he could not believe Kim when she told the reporters she does not know what her father does for a living.

Masumoto also relayed a message from Toru Hasuike, whose brother Kaoru is one of the five Japanese abductees currently on a homecoming visit, claiming that a handful of media organizations are trying to divide the families’ association.

Meanwhile, Shigeru Yokota suggested again that he may consider traveling to North Korea to meet his granddaughter under certain conditions.

Yokota and his wife agreed not to go to North Korea because Tokyo and Pyongyang are locked in a dispute over whether the five abductees will remain in Japan or return to their families in North Korea.

On Saturday, Yokota said, “As the child also said, it is a natural course for us to go there first and then invite her to come (to Japan). If a visit to Japan by the children of the surviving abductees from North Korea is realized, I want to go.”

Kim repeatedly said in the interview she wants her grandparents to visit her in North Korea. She said she cannot go to Japan merely because her mother is Japanese, since her father is Korean.

“I really want to meet grandfather and grandmother,” she said in the interview. “I just found out recently that I have (grandparents), but rather than me go to a different country, not even knowing what they look like, I hope grandfather and grandmother will come here.”

The Yokotas have also released a video clip of Kim filmed last month.