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A Japanese woman who moved to North Korea in 1959 along with her Korean husband and fled to China in November has sent a petition to the Foreign Ministry seeking refugee status in Japan, her supporters said Tuesday.

In the petition dated Jan. 2, the 64-year-old woman, now a North Korean citizen whose identity has been withheld to protect her safety, called for the Japanese government’s help so that she can return to her homeland.

The Foreign Ministry said it cannot comment on specific cases in which individuals have sought refugee status from the viewpoint of protecting their privacy.

Under a program devised by North Korean leader Kim Il Sung and endorsed by the Japanese government in February 1959, 93,340 Korean residents of Japan, including married couples and children, went to North Korea between 1959 and 1984.

With them went about 6,840 Japanese wives, husbands and children of Koreans, including some 1,830 women married to Koreans.

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