• Kyodo

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A group of 16 Japanese women married to North Koreans departed from Narita airport Monday after a weeklong homecoming visit.

The trip, organized by the Red Cross societies of Japan and North Korea, was the third of its kind, following trips in January 1998 and November 1997.

The women used the trip — their first home in decades — to meet with friends and relatives and visit family graves.

According to the Japanese Red Cross Society, 217 people visited the women at their quarters in Tokyo’s Yoyogi district. Two had no visitors.

During a press conference Sunday, four of the women, speaking on behalf of all 16 in the group, expressed hope that Japan and North Korea will further improve ties.

However, Hisako Masukawa, 61, one of the four, said tearfully that her four siblings refused to see her during her visit. “My heart aches as I think of my dead parents,” she said.

Naoko Murakami, 76, told reporters that she met her 80-year-old sister and former classmates during a trip to her hometown in Sendai, where she also visited her ancestors’ graves.

Megumi Horikoshi, 65, said the trip will become “an important page in my life” and expressed hope that Japan and North Korea normalize relations soon.

Fuyo Masuko, 67, thanked North Korean leader Kim Jong Il for reuniting her with members of her family for the first time in 40 years.

The women, who range in age from 59 to 76, are among thousands who moved to North Korea with their husbands in a 1959-1984 project.

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