N. Korea families: Free our abductees

Kyodo

Relatives of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea decades ago Sunday called for priority to be placed on the return of survivors, after North Korea agreed with Japan in May to reinvestigate the fate of the abductees.

At a special gathering in Tokyo of family members and their supporters, Shigeo Iizuka, 76, whose sister, Yaeko Taguchi, was abducted at the age of 22 in 1978, said, “We want the (Japanese) government to negotiate with clear lines in the sand.”

“It is the top priority to realize the return of survivors. I would really like to see Yaeko,” said Iizuka, who heads a group representing relatives of the abductees. The meeting was attended by about 200 people.

North Korea has promised to set up a special investigation committee for a comprehensive survey of all the Japanese, including the abduction victims as well as those who went missing and are suspected of having been abducted.

At the gathering, the family members of the victims including the parents of Megumi Yokota, a symbol of Pyongyang’s abductions of Japanese nationals, and the relatives of those suspected of having been forcibly taken by the North voiced expectations and anxiety over the special committee to be set up to investigate the matter.

Sakie Yokota, 78, the mother of Megumi who was abducted by North Korea in 1977 aged 13, said, “The abduction was a crime committed by a state. Many people crave for the return (of the victims.)”

Tetsuya Yokota, 45, younger brother of Megumi, said the return of a symbolic victim like his sister is important but added, “Our goal is the return of all of the victims.”

Keiji Furuya, state minister for the issue of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese, also attended the gathering.

Japan officially lists 17 nationals as abductees but suspects North Korea’s involvement in many more disappearances. While five of the 17 were repatriated in 2002, Tokyo continues to seek the return of the 12 remaining people.