GENEVA – Japan asked the U.N. Human Rights Commission on Wednesday to reopen an investigation into eight Japanese abducted to North Korea whom Pyongyang says later died there.
The government filed the case with the commission’s Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, according to diplomatic sources.
Relatives of the abductees filed a similar request with the panel in April 2001, but North Korea was still denying at that point it had abducted any Japanese and refused to cooperate.
In a stunning about-face in September, however, Pyongyang admitted that 13 Japanese nationals were either abducted or lured to North Korea over a seven-year period in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It claimed eight of them have died.
Pyongyang has provided death certificates for them, but the authenticity of the documents was called into question when the abductees’ relatives discovered they contain factual errors.
Diplomatic sources said Japan hopes the U.N. Human Rights Commission will help draw more information from North Korea.
Akitaka Saiki, deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, was scheduled to meet with the five-member U.N. working group Thursday and outline Japan’s petition.
Megumi Yokota, abducted to North Korea in 1977 when she was 13 and listed by Pyongyang as having committed suicide in 1993, is one of the abductees said to have died in the secretive state.
.5 Soga reregisters name
MANO, Niigata Pref. (Kyodo) Hitomi Soga, back in Japan for the first time since North Korea abducted her in 1978, had her name re-entered in her hometown family register Thursday, 16 years after her father removed it because of her disappearance.
Soga, 43, presented the necessary papers, including a court document nullifying her missing-person status, to the Mano town office on Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture. She then reregistered herself as a resident of the town.
“I am very happy. This is my hometown,” Soga said.
“I don’t know about the future until I meet with my family and take time to talk with them,” she said, referring to the possibility of her American husband and two daughters being allowed to leave North Korea and reside with her in Japan.
Mano Mayor Koichiro Takano handed Soga a copy of her resident registration and a national health insurance certificate, telling her the town office will work with the national and Niigata governments to help her lead a normal life.
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