Hitomi Soga, one of the five Japanese abducted to North Korea who has been listed as still alive, had a frightening tale to tell.
Soga, 43, relived last week in Pyongyang the ordeal of her kidnapping for a Japanese fact-finding mission.
She and her mother, Miyoshi, then 46, were abducted from Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture, on Aug. 12, 1978, as they returned home, she told the mission, which interviewed the five abductees during its four-day visit that began Sept. 28.
Soga now has two daughters with her American husband, Charles Robert Jenkins, 62.
“At around 7 or 7:30 in the evening, (my mother and I) were walking just after coming out of the shop,” she told the mission, speaking mostly in Korean. “We suddenly noticed the footsteps of several people behind us. When we turned around, we saw three men in a group following us.
“They were still following us a few minutes later, and when we reached a home with a big tree along the road, the men suddenly assaulted us from behind and dragged my mother and me to the base of the tree,” she said. “They covered my mouth and put me into a sack and one of them carried me somewhere. I have no idea where we went after that, and I do not know what happened to (my mother) either.”
According to the interview record, Soga said she was put on a small boat that took her out to a larger ship. There, she met a woman who could speak Japanese.
Soga said the ship docked at the North Korean port of Chongjin, and she was then transferred via car and train to a spy-training facility.
She told the mission that she lived with fellow abductee Megumi Yokota on three occasions for between five and seven months while they were studying the Korean language. Soga said she played badminton and table tennis with Yokota.
Yokota was abducted Nov. 15, 1977, at age 13, as she made her way home from school, also in Niigata. She is one of eight Japanese abductees listed as dead by Pyongyang. According to North Korea, Yokota was admitted to a psychiatric hospital and later killed herself.
Soga also read out a letter written to her father and younger sister in which she begged for their forgiveness, fearing they had not slept well over the past 24 years worrying about her and her mother.
“I have often thought about my hometown since I came here, but under the warm love of General Secretary Kim Jong Il, I have been given a lot of care and have been blessed now with two daughters.” she said.
Soga told the mission that she wants to see her father and younger sister as soon as possible.
She said she met her husband about two months after she last saw Yokota in May or June 1980. The two met while Soga was studying English. According to Soga, Jenkins had been serving in the U.S. military when he left South Korea for the North to avoid duty in the Vietnam War.
The government mission released a report last week that says Pyongyang abducted Soga so an agent would be able to assume her identity and to have her teach Japanese in North Korea. A Japanese national was reportedly involved in her kidnapping.
Soga lives under the Korean name Ming Hye Gyon (phonetic spelling), and her daughters, aged 19 and 17, are students at Pyongyang Foreign Language University.
Soga’s spouse in film
Charles Robert Jenkins, a former U.S. soldier who married a Japanese national abducted to Pyongyang, has appeared in a North Korean film, the Washington Post reported last week.
Jenkins, 62, was a sergeant of a U.S. army unit deployed along the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea. He defected to North Korea on Jan. 5, 1965, the newspaper quoted a Pentagon official as saying.
Jenkins is believed to have married Hitomi Soga, 43, one of the Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.
In the 1990s, the Pentagon office in charge of prisoners of war and missing personnel identified Jenkins acting in a North Korean film called “Nameless Heroes,” the Post said.
According to the Pentagon official, six U.S. military personnel are believed to have defected to North Korea between 1962 and 1982. Apart from Jenkins, three other defectors are believed to be alive.