• Compiled From Wire Reports

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MANO, Niigata Pref. — Hitomi Soga, who returned to Japan last year for the first time since being abducted to North Korea in 1978, said Tuesday she is filled with the pain of being separated from her husband and children.

Soga held a news conference here on the eve of the first anniversary of the Sept. 17, 2002, summit between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. She is one of five Japanese who returned home in October for the first time since being abducted nearly a quarter century ago.

At the summit, North Korea admitted that it had kidnapped more than a dozen Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s, saying only five of them were still alive. Soga said she learned via a North Korean TV newscast that Kim had admitted and apologized for the kidnappings.

“I was so happy, and felt as if someone had come to save me,” she said.

Soga recounted her 24 years in North Korea hoping that someday she would return.

“Every time a Japanese politician visited North Korea before the prime minister’s trip (in September), I kept thinking that this time” I would be able to return to Japan, Soga said.

But her ordeal did not end when she returned to Japan. Her American husband and their North Korean-born children remain in Pyongyang, and North Korea has snubbed Japanese demands that the relatives of the former abductees be sent to Japan.

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