A House of Representatives committee approved a bill Wednesday that would allow the government to provide financial support for Japanese abducted to North Korea who return to Japan.

Despite a spat over committee attendance figures, the Lower House Health, Labor and Welfare Committee unanimously endorsed the proposed legislation, which is aimed at supporting returnees and family members who accompany them from North Korea.

The bill was to be sent to the full Lower House for approval Thursday before undergoing debate in the House of Councilors next week.

The Upper House is expected to pass the bill Dec. 4, with the legislation taking effect Jan. 1, government officials said.

At one stage during Wednesday’s session, Yuriko Takeyama of the Liberal Party refused to continue questioning government officials about the bill, complaining about the lack of ruling party committee members present at the meeting.

“This situation is scoffing at the public,” Takeyama remarked while looking at a plethora of empty seats in the section allocated for lawmakers of the Liberal Democratic Party and its two coalition partners.

The committee’s brisk deliberations on the bill were prompted by a request from the government and the ruling bloc.

Under the bill, the government would pay the abductees a sum of 170,000 yen, or 240,000 yen for a two-person household, per month. It would pay another 30,000 yen for each additional member of the family unit.

The families would be able to receive the financial aid for a maximum of five years after they decide to remain permanently in Japan.

The assistance would be halted once a returnee is able to earn an annual income of at least 5.8 million yen. It would be reduced by 30,000 yen when a returnee is able to earn an annual income of more than 2 million yen.

The legislation would be applicable to five returnees currently in Japan. :Yasushi and Fukie Chimura; Kaoru and Yukiko Hasuike; and Hitomi Soga. All five were abducted in 1978 and returned to Japan on Oct. 15.

The bill is part of a comprehensive government package aimed at helping returned abductees taken to North Korea mainly in the late 1970s and early 1980s in areas such as finance, accommodations, employment and education for the returnees’ children.

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