SEOUL – Abduction victim Megumi Yokota was likely sent to a spy training facility in Pyongyang soon after she was taken from Japan to North Korea in 1977 when she was 13, according to a South Korean source.
South Korean abductees in their late teens were being taught about North Korean ideology at the facility at that time, while Yokota is believed to have been taught the Korean language and received other education there, the source said Sunday.
The source reportedly obtained the information from testimony by a North Korean spy caught in South Korea and other sources.
Families of South Korean abductees have asked the government to take up the abduction issue if President Park Park Geun-hye meets one on one next week with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, according to Choi Song-ryong, head of the South Korean Families of Abducted and Detained in North Korea.
Choi said Seoul and Tokyo should cooperate in trying to repatriate their nationals from North Korea, especially knowing now that Yokota was likely trained among South Korean abductees, and that the South Korean government is considering the matter positively.
Although Japan and South Korea share the common issue of abductions by North Korean agents, their top leaders have not had a formal bilateral meeting in more than three years due to differing views on territorial and wartime history issues.
Families of abduction victims hope Abe and Park will affirm bilateral cooperation on the abduction issue if they meet on the sidelines of a trilateral summit with China being arranged for Sunday in South Korea.
Yokota disappeared on her way home from junior high school in Niigata Prefecture on Nov. 15, 1977, and is believed to have been taken to North Korea on a ship.
According to the source, she was educated at the facility, mainly used for teaching North Korean spies about South Korean custom and practices, starting in January 1978.
Two high school students aged 18 and 16 who were abducted from South Korea in August 1977 were reportedly there at the time.
In August 1978, three 16-year-old South Koreans were abducted and taken to this facility about two months later, according to the source. The three included Kim Young-nam, who would later marry Yokota.
There is also information that in 1982, all six attended lectures at a university, indicating that Yokota may have been fluent in Korean by then, the source said.
North Korea says Yokota and Kim married in 1986 and had a daughter the following year.
According to Kim and North Korean officials, Yokota lived in Pyongyang and studied Korean until spring 1981 and was then engaged in teaching Japanese until August 1986. That year, she met Kim and got married.
The North initially said Yokota killed herself while being treated for depression in 1993 but later changed the year of her death to 1994.
Japan rejects North Korea’s claim that Yokota is dead, in part because DNA tests conducted in Japan determined that cremated remains Pyongyang turned over, claiming to be hers, were those of someone else.
During a summit in 2002 between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, Pyongyang admitted having abducted or lured Yokota and 12 others to the country in the late 1970s and early 1980s.