The husband and two daughters of Hitomi Soga, one of five Japanese abducted by North Korea who are now back in Japan, have said they want her to return to Pyongyang as soon as possible, officials of a Japanese weekly magazine that interviewed the trio said Thursday.
Upon reading the article, however, Soga became upset and a support group for the abductees lashed out at the magazine for being party to North Korean propaganda.
Husband Charles Robert Jenkins, 62, a U.S. citizen, and the couple’s daughters, aged 19 and 17, told Shukan Kinyobi (Weekly Friday) in an interview in the North Korean capital that they at least want her to come to Pyongyang International Airport to discuss the family’s future.
The magazine, sold mainly through subscriptions, will publish an article based on the interview in Friday’s issue. The interview, in English and Korean, took place at the Koryo Hotel in Pyongyang, the officials said.
Soga, 43, apparently upset by the article, complained Thursday that she was not feeling well and canceled her schedule for the day, including a news conference she was planning to hold in her hometown of Mano, on Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture, her supporters said.
Soga cried after reading the article, which officials of the weekly gave to her in the morning, the supporters said.
According to the weekly, Jenkins, an alleged U.S. Army deserter, said that when he and the girls saw Soga off at the airport on Oct. 15 along with four other abducted Japanese, government officials from Tokyo promised she would return in 10 days.
The Japanese government decided to keep the five returnees in Japan despite an agreement with North Korea that their visit would be for about two weeks at most. Japan is now demanding that North Korea send their families to Japan, but Pyongyang has refused.
Asked about the prospects of him visiting Japan, Jenkins, a former U.S. army sergeant listed as a deserter by Washington, reportedly said he would have to wait until 2005, as he has heard the statute of limitations for a desertion charge is 40 years.
All three expressed their wish for Soga to return to them, the weekly said.
The elder daughter, Mika, was quoted as telling the magazine that after her mother comes back, the family may be able to travel to Japan on holidays. She said Soga often talked about her family in Japan and so she wants to meet her grandfather and aunt.
A representative of a national association supporting the abductees and their families bitterly protested the magazine article, calling it a North Korean propaganda ploy.
“Shukan Kinyobi made a grave mistake by conducting the interview, which North Korea intentionally made (Soga’s family) participate in,” said Kazuhiro Araki, the group’s secretary general. “We strongly protest, and we demand countermeasures against North Korea, including economic sanctions.”
Soga is staying in her hometown, spending time with her father, Shigeru Soga, and younger sister, Tomiko Kaneko, for the first time since she disappeared in August 1978 along with her mother, Miyoshi, who remains missing. North Korea, however, claims it did not abduct the mother.
Jenkins said Soga did not tell him she had been abducted to North Korea until two weeks before she departed for Japan, the weekly said.
Japan has asked the United States to make an exception in Jenkins’ case and not have the U.S. military arrest him if he is allowed to come to Japan. The U.S. earlier said the arrest of Jenkins for desertion would be “inevitable” if he came to Japan.
Jenkins entered North Korea in 1965 while stationed on the South Korean side of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas. He and Soga married in the North in 1980.
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