SEOUL – A Japanese woman believed to have been abducted by North Korea in 1977 is currently living in Pyongyang, the Yonhap news agency reported Wednesday, citing information given to local media Tuesday night by South Korea’s state intelligence agency.
Kyoko Matsumoto, who disappeared from Yonago, Tottori Prefecture, at the age of 29, was relocated to North Korea’s capital after having lived in the port city of Chongjin in recent years, the National Intelligence Service said, according to Yonhap.
The information corresponds to a November 2012 disclosure by Choi Song Yong, the head of a group of relatives of South Korean abductees, that Matsumoto was moved to Pyongyang from Chongjin in 2011, according to his source inside the hermit nation.
Choi told Kyodo News on Tuesday that the NIS apparently obtained the information on Matsumoto’s current whereabouts from its own source because it did not ask him to confirm his information on her whereabouts.
He said he first obtained, in late 2003, information that a female Japanese abductee named Matsumoto resided in Chongjin.
When he contacted his source to verify the info, the source told him the woman married either a Japanese man residing in the North or a former Korean resident in Japan who had resettled in North Korea under a political campaign encouraging Korean residents in Japan to go live in that country, he said. Choi added that the source had told him the woman did not have any children from the marriage and that she was then working at a flower farm.
In 2011, North Korea’s current leader, Kim Jong Un, who was then heir-apparent to his father, Kim Jong Il, ordered the ramped-up surveillance of Japanese abductees as South Korea was then moving to bring up the fate of South Korean abductees at the United Nations, Choi said, adding that the order resulted in Matsumoto’s transfer.
Matsumoto vanished after leaving home in Yonago on Oct. 21, 1977. In 2006, Japan added her to its official list of abductees, but Pyongyang has denied she ever entered the North.