Ex-abductees mark 11th anniversary of return from N. Korea

Kyodo

Five Japanese abducted by North Korea in 1978 and repatriated in 2002 on Tuesday marked the 11th anniversary of their return to Japan.

The five — Kaoru Hasuike, 56, and his wife, Yukiko, 57, from Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture; Hitomi Soga, 54, from Sado, also in the prefecture; and Yasushi Chimura and his wife, Fukie, both 58, from Obama, Fukui Prefecture — have resettled in their hometowns.

No substantial progress has been made since the repatriation of the five regarding other abductees believed still in North Korea, despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s oft-stated goal of resolving the issue.

On Saturday, Soga addressed about 270 people gathered at a hall in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, expressing her strong wish “to put an end to this problem as soon as possible.”

Soga was abducted along with her mother, Miyoshi, then aged 46, in Sado. Miyoshi’s whereabouts is still unknown, and the North has denied she ever stepped foot in the hermit state. It is believed the two were taken off Sado Island by boat.

“Every day, I felt as though I was going insane,” Soga said, looking back on her 24 years in the North.

Soga said she is stilling waiting for her mother to return home.

On Sunday, Soga stood in the Sado street where her family of four now lives, collecting signatures for their campaign to achieve the return of the remaining abductees.

Soga works at a nursing facility, while her husband, Charles Jenkins, 73, a former U.S. Army deserter who married Soga while the two were in North Korea, tends a souvenir shop. Their two daughters — Mika, 30, and Brinda, 28 — work at a kindergarten and a sake brewery, respectively.

Hasuike has been traveling across the country to give speeches.

“There is no chance that the victims who were left behind (in North Korea) don’t know about our return home. They are waiting for their rescue amid the sense of frustration and hope,” Hasuike said.

Hasuike said even as North Korea-related problems, such as its nuclear and missile threats, draw attention, abduction issues must not be forgotten.

In April, Hasuike was appointed an associate professor of economics at the Kashiwazaki-based Niigata Sangyo University, where he has taught since 2008. Besides teaching the Korean language and culture, Hasuike runs a translation business.

Yukiko serves as an assistant cook at a kindergarten in the city while their daughter, Shigeyo, 31, studies at a graduate school.

According to the city of Obama, Chimura has not publicly spoken about the abduction issue since the October 2012 press conference to mark the 10th anniversary of repatriation.