Japan, South Korea kin join on abduction issue

by Hiroko Nakata

Relatives of Japanese and South Koreans abducted by Pyongyang told a Diet special committee Monday that their two governments must cooperate to get back their kin from North Korea as quickly as possible.

The first joint call at the Diet on the issue was triggered by Japan’s announcement last month that DNA analysis indicates South Korean abductee Kim Young Nam is probably the father of Megumi Yokota’s daughter, Kim Hye Gyong. Yokota was kidnapped by North Korean agents in 1977.

The DNA test results prompted Kim Young Nam’s mother, Choi Gye Wol, and his sister, Kim Young Ja, along with representatives of South Korean groups working on the abductee issue to come to Japan to meet Yokota’s parents and testify before the Diet.

“We should cooperate with Japan and should do as much as we can,” Kim Young Ja told the special committee on the abduction issue in the House of Representatives. “I believe it would lead to a good result.”

Choi told the panel, “Please let me see my son while I’m still alive.”

But the Japanese and South Korean families disagreed on how to approach North Korea to resolve the abduction issue. Kim said she would be willing to visit North Korea if she were invited by Pyongyang to see her brother or Kim Hye Gyong, while the Japanese relatives urged caution, saying any invitation from North Korea might be a ruse aimed at convincing them that their loved ones are dead.

“If there would be such a situation in the future that the North Korea asks us to meet Hye Gyong and Young Nam there, we would go and see them,” Kim said.

The Japanese relatives received an invitation from North Korea to visit Kim Hye Gyong in Pyongyang but have turned it down. At an earlier meeting with Japanese officials, the daughter said her mother had died, as the North Korean government has claimed.

A representative of a South Korean group of abductees’ relatives told the committee that Seoul needs Tokyo to give it the data and evidence it has on the abductions.

An estimated 500 South Koreans have been abducted by Pyongyang, but specific data is lacking, he said.

However, Seoul is reluctant to press the issue with Pyongyang as it is pursuing a policy of detente.

Tokyo continues to accuse Pyongyang of human rights abuses. Although Japan managed to repatriate five Japanese abductees and brought their families over as well, bilateral talks on resolving the fate of other missing Japanese have been stalled for two years.

Earlier on the day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe met the relatives and said Japan would appeal to other countries about the issue at the G8 meeting in July and at the U.N.