• Kyodo


A North Korean ferry suspected of involvement in illicit trade has again canceled a Niigata port call, citing tightened security by Japanese authorities, a group of pro-Pyongyang Korean residents in Japan said Monday.

It was the second time this month that a visit by the Mangyongbong-92 was called off. The General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryun) said North Korea told it Friday of the cancellation of Monday’s visit.

Chongryun quoted North Korean officials as saying they could not expect the situation in Japan to improve.

“Ships using the port must be treated equally. We regret that only the Mangyongbong-92 is under political pressure,” a Chongryun official said, referring to the beefed-up security measures put in place for the ferry.

The vessel, which sails between Wonsan in North Korea and Niigata on an irregular basis, last docked in Japan in mid-January.

Public security authorities suspect it has been used to conduct espionage, smuggle goods for military use and carry unauthorized remittances of cash.

On June 9, its port call was canceled after news that Japan would ban it from carrying passengers if it was found to lack properly maintained safety equipment, including lifeboats.

Some Korean residents of Japan expressed regret after the first cancellation, while Japanese protesters in Niigata, including relatives of Japanese abducted to the North, cheered the development.

The next planned port call is July 3, but the Chongryun official said the organization is unsure whether it will go ahead because North Korea has not issued any instructions to date.

Port call requests must usually be made about a week to 10 days in advance, according to Niigata prefectural officials.

Abductees’ kin in Seoul

SEOUL (Kyodo) Relatives of three Japanese abducted to North Korea in the late 1970s who Pyongyang says died in the reclusive state arrived Monday in Seoul for a three-day visit aimed at boosting cooperation with South Koreans trying to get their missing kin back.

Shigeru and Sakie Yokota, whose daughter, Megumi, was snatched in 1977 at age 13, arrived along with Teruaki Masumoto, whose sister, Rumiko, was abducted the following year at age 24, and Shigeo Iizuka, whose sister, Yaeko Taguchi, was taken to the North in 1978 at age 22.

“South Korea’s abduction issue is more serious than Japan’s, but the government is not very concerned,” Shigeru Yokota said before departing from Narita airport. “We hope public interest in South Korea picks up steam.”

Four lawmakers, including Katsuei Hirasawa and Shingo Nishimura, are accompanying the relatives and will meet with South Korean legislators to discuss coordinating efforts to address the abduction issue, supporters said.

It will be the first meeting among lawmakers of the two countries to discuss abductions by North Korea, they said.

The Japanese group were to hold talks with the kin of South Korean abductees Monday and Tuesday and take part Tuesday in a rally organized by the South Korean families calling for the return of all abductees from North Korea.

They are to pay a call on former President Kim Young Sam on Wednesday, and a meeting is being arranged for them with Hwang Jang Yop, a former secretary of the Workers Party of Korea who defected to South Korea in 1997, the supporters said.

The South Korean government recognizes 486 of its nationals as having been abducted to the North. , but has taken a passive stance with North Korea to avoid provoking the country.

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