Soga’s hometown preparing to welcome family


The hometown of repatriated abductee Hitomi Soga stepped up preparations Saturday to eventually welcome her family as her husband, accused U.S. Army deserter Charles Jenkins, surrendered himself at a U.S. military base.

People in the small island city of Sado, Niigata Prefecture, hope Jenkins, 64, can avoid imprisonment and start a new life there, local officials said.

The couple married in North Korea two years after Soga was abducted by North Korea in 1978. She was repatriated in October 2002.

Their North Korea-born daughters, aged 21 and 19, were learning English at Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies. As there are no universities in Sado, the Niigata Prefectural Government is considering asking Niigata University to send instructors to teach them Japanese.

The Sado Municipal Government is planning to arrange English-speaking staff members for Jenkins, who doesn’t speak Japanese.

Jenkins had been hospitalized in Tokyo after his arrival in Japan in July. But the central government has disclosed little information on his condition, a Sado official said.

Sado officials are examining various options such as house calls by private doctors or health workers if Jenkins becomes housebound.

Soga has been on leave from her assistant nurse job with the municipal government, and is expected to take more time off.

An official at the prefectural government’s section for supporting Soga said, “We’d like the family to stay and discuss things for about three months and then think about their lives in the future after they settle.”