Relatives of Japanese and Koreans, who emigrated to North Korea but have never been allowed to return to Japan, on May 29 called for public support in Tokyo for the rights of their kin.

Keiko Nakasuji, 54, whose mother died in North Korea, emphasized the agony of the children taken to the Stalinist state, as well as that of the Japanese wives. “(Those that emigrated as) children should be allowed to return because they went against their will,” Nakasuji, of Hyogo Prefecture, told reporters and lawmakers at the Diet members’ building.

About 90,000 Korean residents of Japan and 1,800 Japanese spouses emigrated to North Korea between 1959 and 1984 under Red Cross “repatriation” programs. None of the Japanese wives have been allowed to return home, even temporarily, and the status or whereabouts of many is not known to their relatives in Japan.

The meeting, which attracted more than 30 reporters, was organized by the Society to Help Returnees to North Korea, a Tokyo-based civic group. Four people, including Nakasuji, spoke of their relatives in the communist country. At least 14 Diet members expressed support for the gathering.

The issue of Japanese wives has been cited as one of the reasons why Tokyo is withholding food aid to the famine-threatened country.

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