Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is to officially recognize 15 Japanese — including the five people who returned to Japan on Oct. 15 — as victims of abduction by Pyongyang, it was learned Friday.

They will be eligible for government support in accordance with legislation that took effect at the beginning of January.

The law provides the returnees with monthly payments of 170,000 yen each, or 240,000 yen for a two-person household, and 30,000 yen for each additional family member for a maximum of five years.

Kaoru and Yukiko Hasuike will be eligible for payments of 240,000 yen, along with Yasushi and Fukie Chimura. Hitomi Soga, whose American husband and children are still in North Korea, will receive 170,000 yen a month.

The five, who have spent the New Year’s holidays in their home towns, are preparing to resume life in Japan after a quarter of a century away.

Last month, Kaoru Hasuike expressed his desire to find a job at the city office of his hometown, Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture. Hitomi Soga has moved into a new house and hopes her American husband, former U.S. Army Sgt. Charles Robert Jenkins, and their two daughters will be able to join her there.

The law also enables the central and local governments to offer other forms of assistance to the returnees, including employment assistance and counseling services.

The government now plans to work out the details of the financial support to the five, in cooperation with local governments.

A travel agent who has taken care of the five since their return has been appointed by local governments to continue to handle their affairs, acting as a social worker.

Kyoko Nakayama, a special adviser to the Cabinet Secretariat, expressed hope that the appointment of the social worker will be of important psychological support.

Normalization talks between Tokyo and Pyongyang have been at a standstill since the five announced in late October that they had decided to stay in Japan.

The question of the return of their families and the official confirmation of the whereabouts of abductees that Pyongyang has claimed are dead, including Megumi Yokota, remain undecided.

Pyongyang has adopted a more aggressive stance, as seen in its recent announcement that it will resume operations at its nuclear facilities, but government sources said they will make every effort to promote talks to achieve the return of those still in North Korea.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.