A group supporting relatives of Japanese abducted to North Korea has demanded that authorities probe whether Pyongyang’s agents spirited away some 60 others besides the 14 whose fates the Stalinist state have already disclosed.
The Tokyo-based National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea says it has a list of suspected abductees based on its own probes.
“There are lots of leads on abductees other than those already reported,” Kazuhiro Araki, the group’s secretary general, said. “The government should actively collect information and investigate the matter now that North Korea has finally, after years of denial, admitted its agents had abducted Japanese.”
The group says the list was compiled based on testimony it collected, including from the former wife of a Japanese Red Army fugitive wanted in the 1970 hijacking of a Japan Airlines jetliner to the North, former North Korean spies who defected to South Korea and freelance journalists.
The list includes unidentified abductees and unconfirmed, fragmented information.
In many of the suspected abductions, agents lured Japanese to North Korea on bogus trips, and the abductees were then prevented from leaving the country, group officials said.
Most of the abductions took the form of “half persuasion, half threats,” said group chief Katsumi Sato, who talked with Megumi Yao, the hijacker’s former wife. She admitted taking part in the early 1980s abduction from Europe of Keiko Arimoto, whom Pyongyang on Tuesday claimed had died.
The support group maintains the North abducted about 30 Japanese in Japan and about 30 others overseas, including in Europe and Latin America.
The central government is receiving a mixed response as it sounds out relatives of the Japanese identified as having been abducted by North Korean agents, to see if they wish to visit North Korea. Some are hesitant to set foot in the country that took away their kin and others keen to see for themselves what happened to the victims.
Kenichi Ichikawa, 57, whose younger brother, Shuichi, was kidnapped in Kagoshima Prefecture in August 1978, said, “I will go to North Korea, but I will not believe (he is dead) even if they show me his grave.”
Shuichi, who disappeared from a beach, is one of the eight deceased abductees.
Teruaki Masumoto, 46, whose elder sister, Rumiko, was abducted together with Shuichi and is also among the eight listed as dead, said he told the Foreign Ministry, which is contacting the relatives about a trip, that he would like to defer a visit.
“If my elder sister’s death is scientifically proven, I would go there to retrieve her remains,” he said. “But I wonder what (the ministry) wants us to do by asking us to visit there before (such confirmation).”
Akira Ishioka, 47, whose younger brother, Toru, disappeared in Europe in 1980 and is also among those listed as dead, has shown interest in visiting the North along with other relatives.
“I may not be able to confirm how my brother died, but I would like to talk in person with North Korean officials so that I can believe what little is known.”
Shigeru Yokota, 69, whose daughter, Megumi, was abducted in 1977 in Niigata Prefecture at age 13 and was also reported dead by Pyongyang, said he told the ministry he would like to visit “as soon as possible” and called on the ministry to expedite arrangements.
“I would like to meet those people who are said to be the daughter and the husband (of Megumi),” he said. While North Korea said Megumi died in 1993, it also said she left behind a daughter and husband.
Tamotsu Chimura, 75, whose son, Yasushi, was kidnapped in 1978 in Fukui Prefecture and is listed as alive, also expressed a wish to visit North Korea at an early date.
But Toru Hasuike, 47, whose younger brother, Kaoru, vanished in Niigata in 1978 and is listed as alive, expressed reservations.
“I have no intention to go only with those kin who were told (their loved ones) are alive. If we are to go, all the kin of the victims should go together,” he said.
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