The Japanese woman abducted to North Korea who was not on Tokyo’s official list of 11 is probably a nurse from Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture who vanished along with her mother in 1978, sources said Friday.
The woman, identified by Pyongyang as Hitomi Soga, vanished along with her mother, Miyoshi, in August 1978 when she was 19, the sources said. Her father lives alone on Sado Island.
Revelations that Soga is alive in North Korea came in Pyongyang’s admission Tuesday that its agents had abducted 13 Japanese, eight of them have died and five, including Soga, are still alive.
Soga, born in May 1959, was a nurse at Sado General Hospital when she disappeared. Her mother, born in December 1931, would now be 70 if alive, the sources said.
Soga and her mother went out together to a nearby shop on the evening of Aug. 12, 1978, and disappeared on their way home, the sources said, adding that their home in the town of Mano sits some 200 meters off the beach. The same day, Shuichi Ichikawa and Rumiko Masumoto were together when they disappeared from a beach in Kagoshima Prefecture.
The following morning, Sado police and local residents searched for Soga and her mother but found no trace of them, the sources said. Locals suspected at the time that they may have been abducted to North Korea, but there was no evidence, the sources said.
Police now believe the mother and daughter were abducted together by North Korean agents who had landed on the coast, the sources said.
Upon hearing the news of his daughter, Shigeru Soga, 70, was surprised but told reporters he was skeptical about the information.
Hitomi Soga’s sister, Fumiko Kaneko, a 37-year-old nurse, also said the identity of the woman Pyongyang claims is her his sister must be confirmed.
The National Police Agency has instructed police nationwide to check if there are any missing people who might match the woman’s description.
The NPA apparently knew nothing about a fifth surviving abductee, the sources said.
Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said Friday that the government has yet to confirm if the woman identified by Pyongyang as Hitomi Soga is actually her.
“Government ministries are currently investigating the case, but we have not confirmed the information yet,” Kawaguchi said.
North Korea told Japan during Tuesday’s summit that 13 Japanese were abducted and taken to North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.
Masumoto and Ichikawa, who were among the 11 unaccounted-for Japanese on the Japanese government’s list, are reportedly dead and four others on the list are alive. Soga was not on that list.
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