Pyongyang opens door for daughter of Yokota; grandparents suspicious

Compiled From Kyodo, Staff Reports

BEIJING — North Korea is prepared to let the 16-year-old daughter of abductee Megumi Yokota come to Japan and live with her grandparents, sources close to Japan-North Korea relations said Monday.

Now that the children of four repatriated abductees have settled in Japan, Pyongyang believes it can allow Kim Hye Gyong to travel to her mother’s home country, the sources said.

Kim was quoted as saying that she has a strong desire to see Shigeru and Sakie Yokota. She had stressed in an interview with Japanese news media in 2002 that she hoped to see her grandparents.

Shigeru Yokota, who heads a group of abductees’ relatives, said he has asked a Cabinet Office support unit dealing with the abduction issue about a possible visit to Japan by Kim. The unit said it has no information on the issue.

“I cannot comment on the issue because, even if Pyongyang actually offers to let (her) come to Japan, we, the family, cannot determine how to deal with the offer alone,” Yokota said.

Meanwhile, Vice Foreign Minister Yukio Takeuchi was cautious on the matter.

“We have to carefully judge what it would mean for her to come to Japan,” Takeuchi told a news conference in Tokyo. “The Yokotas have an opinion on this and we would respect it.”

Last month, Shigeru Yokota and his family issued a statement saying that they were opposed to a Japan visit by Kim unless they were to receive further information on the whereabouts of Megumi herself.

The Yokotas fear that if Kim comes to Japan and tells them that her mother has died, as is claimed by North Korea, Megumi’s abduction case could be closed.

According to the sources, Kim lives in a student dormitory in Pyongyang, apart from her family. She has an excellent academic record and has many friends, the sources said, adding that her North Korean father lives with his new wife in Pyongyang.

North Korea admitted in September 2002 that its agents abducted 13 Japanese to the country between 1977 and 1983. It said that eight of the abductees, including Megumi, had since died.

Megumi Yokota was abducted to North Korea in 1977 at the age of 13. North Korea said she married a North Korean man and gave birth to Kim.

Megumi’s family in Japan has refused to accept North Korea’s explanation that their daughter killed herself in 1993, and are demanding that Pyongyang send her back.

The sources did not provide new information about Megumi, stating only that Kim’s father has remarried.

The five other Japanese abductees, including two couples, returned to Japan in October 2002. The North Korean-born children of four of the repatriated abductees came to Japan to live with them on May 22.

The sources said that, although North Korea has asked Shigeru Yokota to visit North Korea to meet with Kim, he has refused.