• Kyodo


Police on Saturday inspected a number of locations on Sado Island, in Niigata Prefecture, in connection with the abduction of Hitomi Soga, one of the Japanese snatched by North Korean agents and taken to Pyongyang more than two decades ago.

The Niigata Prefectural Police said the investigation — which covered about 1 km along National Route No. 350 near the site of her disappearance — is designed to gather evidence to prove that Soga’s disappearance was an abduction staged by North Korea.

About 10 police investigators conducted the probe, which started around 9:30 a.m. It included measuring distances and taking photographs around the shops she visited before she was abducted.

The investigators then inspected an area near the home of Shigeru Soga, her 70-year-old father, in the town of Mano on the island. Both banks of the nearby Kokubu River, one of the routes Soga’s abductors may have used, were also searched.

The site of the abduction came to light after Soga, now 43, told Japanese officials on a fact-finding mission to Pyongyang last weekend about how she was taken to the North.

Soga disappeared along with her mother, Miyoshi Soga, then 46, on Aug. 12, 1978. Miyoshi was not among the 13 Japanese whom the North says were taken to North Korea either by force or with their consent.

Toshie Kikuchi, 70, a classmate of Soga’s mother, said of Saturday’s investigations, “I wonder why it has taken so long, but I do hope the mother is found immediately.”

A member of the family that ran the last shop that Soga and her mother stopped at said the two had bought snacks and talked about preparing for the Bon festival.

The meeting between Soga and the Japanese government mission took place in the North Korean capital. Soga told the mission that three men assaulted her and her mother as they were walking past a house with a large tree on their way home.

Soga told the Japanese officials that the three men dragged them to the base of the tree where they gagged Soga and stuffed her into a sack. She added she was put aboard a small boat and then transferred to a larger ship out at sea.

Soga told the officials that she has not seen her mother since the abduction.

Soga is one of the five Japanese the North recently said are alive. She married an American and now has two children.