Several Japanese abducted as children and taken to North Korea in the 1970s and ’80s are hoping that the upcoming talks between the two nations may bring some closure to their ordeal — although the issue is far from resolved for families whose relatives remain missing.
May 22 marks ten years since North Korea returned abductees to Japan to be reunited with their parents. It comes less a week before the talks between Tokyo and Pyongyang in Sweden, with the agenda to include talks on the abductions.
“For those of us who returned sooner, it is heartbreaking to see no progress on the abduction issue,” former abductees Yasushi and Fukie Chimura, both 58, said Tuesday in a statement released by their municipality, the city of Obama, Fukui Prefecture.
“We hope the matter will be fully resolved soon, by getting to the bottom” of it — including unresolved cases of suspected abduction.
In a statement released Wednesday, former abductee Kaoru Hasuike, 56, and his wife Yukiko, 58, said the past decade has offered no progress toward closure for them and their children. Hasuike returned to Japan over 11 years ago, while his wife returned 10 years ago.
“We hope the Japanese government will take this fact seriously and translate the new developments between Japan and North Korea into a full resolution to the issue,” they said through their municipality, the city of Kashiwazaki in Niigata Prefecture.
Japan has recognized 17 of its nationals as having been abducted by North Korea, including the two couples and a woman who were returned to Japan in October 2002. It has called for a reinvestigation into the whereabouts of Japanese abductees who have not been returned, and demanded their immediate repatriation.
The Chimuras’ three children, the Hasuikes’ two children, and the two children of former abductee Hitomi Soga, 55, and her husband Charles Jenkins, 74, were between 16 and 22 years old when they set foot on Japanese soil in 2004.
Emi, the Chimuras’ 32-year-old daughter, now works for a local bank, while 30-year-old Yasuhiko — the elder of her two brothers — is involved in pumping technology development at a motor producer. Both live with their parents in Obama.
Kiyoshi, the 26-year-old younger brother, works at the Nagoya branch of a chemical maker in the city of Fukui.
Shigeyo, the Hasuikes’ 32-year-old daughter, is studying at a university again, while her 29-year-old brother Katsuya works for a financial securities firm.
Soga lives on Sado Island in Niigata. Her daughter Mika, 30, works at a nursery school, while the other daughter, Brinda, 28, works for a brewery. Soga’s husband works at a souvenir shop.
In their statement, the Chimuras said that although their three children were initially worried about living in Japan without knowing its language, they “integrated well into Japanese society and are leading their working life in a content manner.”
The couple expressed appreciation for the public assistance that has been extended to their family and the other families of former abductees.
Under the law enacted to assist abduction victims and their children in rebuilding their lives, a single-person household can receive up to ¥170,000 a month for up to 10 years, and a two-person household up to ¥240,000, if they decide to settle in Japan permanently.
The families of the five victims who returned to Japan in 2004 declared their intention of settling in Japan in March 2005. The Hasuikes declined the allowance from the fiscal year beginning April 2010.
With the current allowance program scheduled to end next March, the government is considering a permanent allowance program that would assist any future returnees.