A citizens’ group that independently investigates cases in which Japanese have disappeared under mysterious circumstances on Monday released a fresh list featuring the names of 44 people.
In doing so, the group stated that its investigation team “cannot completely rule out” the possibility that these individuals were abducted by North Korean agents.
With the group having unveiled its first list of names Jan. 10, the new roster brings the total number of “suspicious cases” to 84.
The group says its agenda is to draw public attention to cases in which people have disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and thus spark fresh investigations by Japanese authorities.
It said it is not looking to accuse North Korea of involvement in all these disappearances.
“Please be very careful not to conclude that, only based on this (list), they are all abductions,” said Kazuhiro Araki, who heads the citizens’ group.
During a news conference in Tokyo, the group disclosed names, photos, addresses and other information relating to the 32 men and 12 women on the new list.
The investigation team was set up by the National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea, an influential group that supports the families of 15 individuals officially recognized by Tokyo as having been kidnapped by North Korean agents.
It is tasked with probing cases in which relatives suspect their missing kin may have been abducted by North Korea.
The oldest case on the new list is that of Seiko Inoue, who disappeared in 1962 after leaving for her school in Tokyo’s Kita Ward. She was 18 at the time. The most recent additions are two cases involving individuals who disappeared in 1997.
Sachiko Hatano, who disappeared along with her boyfriend while near the coast of Itoshima, Fukuoka Prefecture, in 1974 at age 18, appears on the list, as does Kenji Yamada, who went missing at age 30 while on his way to work in 1979.
Yamada’s car was later found near the coast of Takaoka in Toyama Prefecture.
Hajime Sonoda, 53, and his 43-year-old wife, Toshiko, remain unaccounted for after leaving their home in Soo, Kagoshima Prefecture in 1971.
Although the group has received information on 218 cases, it has disclosed the identities of only 84 people, in accordance with the wishes of the families involved.
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