Kim Jong Un reaches out to ‘naturalized’ Japanese residing in North

Kyodo

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has sent a handwritten letter to a “naturalized” Japanese woman living in the North’s South Hamgyong Province, according to a state media report.

The woman was identified as Rim Kyong Sim. Details including her Japanese name were not immediately available, but she may be a daughter of a Japanese woman who moved to North Korea with her Korean husband during the 1959-1984 repatriation project.

The report is an apparent attempt by Pyongyang to attract Tokyo’s attention to the issue of Japanese who are residing in North Korea, including the wives of pro-Pyongyang Korean residents in Japan who moved to the North as part of the repatriation project. Revived talks between the countries stalled after the North Korean rocket launch on Dec. 12.

In a letter sent to Rim on Wednesday, Kim said he was happy to hear of her excitement over her son’s admission to the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, according to the report Saturday by the official Korean Central News Agency.

Rim followed her mother when she moved to the North in September 1961 with a man who hailed from what is now South Korea. Rim’s mother had been separated from her Japanese husband.

In a letter to Kim on Dec. 1, Rim “wrote that even though she was Japanese, she was given the same treatment as (North) Koreans and care was shown for her family on holidays and birthdays so that she would not feel loneliness.” She also thanked the leader for extending care to her family, the KCNA said.

Japan and North Korea, which do not have diplomatic relations, resumed intergovernmental talks in August after a four-year hiatus. In November, they upgraded the talks to senior-official level.

Shinsuke Sugiyama, director general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau of the Foreign Ministry, and Song Il Ho, North Korean ambassador for talks to normalize relations with Japan, had been scheduled to hold a second round of talks in early December.