Abductees’ relatives ask Cabinet to push U.N. inquiry

Relatives of Japanese abducted by North Korea sought government help Monday in resubmitting a request to a United Nations human rights body to look into the cases of those still missing.

Shigeru Yokota and Teruaki Masumoto visited Kyoko Nakayama, a special adviser to the Cabinet secretariat for the abduction cases, at the Cabinet Office to seek help. Yokota’s daughter and Masumoto’s sister were abducted in the late 1970s by North Korea, which has listed them as dead.

An association of relatives of the abductees that Yokota heads plans to submit a proposal to the U.N. Human Rights Commission’s Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. The body is scheduled to convene next month in Geneva.

Masumoto, who serves as deputy secretary general of the association, traveled to Geneva in April 2001 to submit a similar request to the working group, asking it to help find missing Japanese suspected of having been abducted by North Korea.

But the working group told the association in February it could not continue looking into the cases because it was unable to gain sufficient information from North Korea, according to Kazuhiro Araki, secretary general of a national support group for Japanese abducted by North Korea.

The request to be submitted next month will exclude the five abduction victims back in Japan for the first time since being forcibly taken to North Korea in 1978, said Araki, who accompanied Masumoto to the Swiss city last year.

The association decided to resubmit the search request because North Korea admitted during Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s Sept. 17 summit in Pyongyang that it abducted or lured 13 Japanese to the country in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Of the 13, North Korea claimed five were living in Pyongyang and eight have died in the country from accidents, illnesses and one suicide. Those listed as dead include Megumi Yokota, abducted from Niigata Prefecture in 1977 at age 13, and Rumiko Masumoto, taken from Kagoshima Prefecture in 1978 when she was 24.

“North Korea admitted the abductions and apologized, so now they have no choice but to cooperate (with the U.N. investigations),” Teruaki Masumoto said.

The association of relatives and the support group will consider whether to travel directly to Geneva to submit the request as they did last year or to make the request through the Japanese government, Araki said.

The Foreign Ministry indicated its willingness to cooperate in resubmitting the proposal to the working group “quite some time before” Sept. 17, Araki said.