Serious allegations were raised Feb. 3 that a 13-year-old Niigata Prefecture girl who disappeared near a local beach 20 years ago had been abducted by North Korean agents and is still being held in the Stalinist state against her will.

The government acknowledged it is investigating to determine the whereabouts of the Japanese woman, who some news reports recently have claimed was probably abducted to North Korea in 1977. “As a matter of course, investigative authorities are conducting the necessary probe regarding cases of suspected abduction,” Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto said before the House of Representatives Budget Committee. The comment was taken to indicate the government is investigating the alleged abduction.

Hashimoto went on to say the government will continue its investigation. The prime minister was responding to questions from Shinshinto’s Shingo Nishimura, who asked if the government is taking any steps regarding the issue.

According to the October issue in the magazine Gendai Korea (Modern Korea), a former North Korean agent who defected and sought refuge in South Korea has told authorities that the girl was taken sometime around 1976 to North Korea while she was walking on a road close to the local seashore. The junior high schooler was on her way home from badminton practice at school, when she was abducted, the magazine quoted the agent as saying.

The monthly magazine is published by Modern Korea Institute, a private research institute specializing in issues related to the Koreas and to Korean residents in Japan. The magazine report did not identify the girl, but a Japanese daily reported Feb. 3 that she is probably Megumi Yokota, who has been missing since 1977, basing its story on many similarities.

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