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Japanese nationals who were abducted by North Korea but returned to their homeland last year voiced frustration Tuesday over the government’s lack of progress in effecting a reunion with the children they left behind in Pyongyang.

One of the former abductees urged Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to visit Pyongyang again to hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to try and forge a breakthrough on the stalemate.

Yasushi Chimura and his wife, Fukie, spoke to reporters at their hometown — Obama in Fukui Prefecture — while Kaoru Hasuike and his wife, Yukiko, met the press in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, on the eve of the first anniversary of their return from North Korea.

On Oct. 15, 2002, the Chimuras, the Hasuikes and Hitomi Soga returned home, having been abducted to North Korea in 1978.

However, their North Korean-born children and Soga’s American husband remain in Pyongyang.

Pyongyang has since rejected demands that the former abductees’ relatives be allowed to come to Japan.

“I believe that one of the solutions to bringing the children over to Japan is for Prime Minister Koizumi to once more, if possible, visit North Korea and hold direct talks” with Kim, Chimura told the news conference.

During the Koizumi-Kim talks in September 2002, North Korea for the first time admitted kidnapping more than a dozen Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s. It claims that eight of the 13 people it abducted have died.

Fukie Chimura voiced concern that the abduction issue could be sidelined by the international standoff over North Korea’s suspected nuclear weapons program.

In a five-page letter they issued to Kyodo News earlier in the day, the Chimuras said they would continue their fight to seek a reunion in Japan with the three children they left behind in the North.

The Chimuras have two sons and a daughter in North Korea and the Hasuikes have a son and a daughter there. Soga has a husband, a former U.S. Army sergeant, and two daughters in Pyongyang.

In the letter, Chimura said that he has “regained his composure” after a year and is now “setting my sights on rethinking the way I want to live out my life.”

Fukie said, “At first, I thought a lot about dying, but realized that if I die I will just be defeating myself, and so decided to live as much as I can.

“Our children are our lives. We feel great pain that we cannot do anything for them.”

Separately, in Kashiwazaki, Kaoru Hasuike said the same day that he still has no sense of closure on the abduction issue.

“The abduction issue has yet to be resolved. Saying that it has been a year (since our homecoming) does not mean that some kind of closure has been achieved,” he told reporters.

He said he is also worried that the issue will begin to disappear now that a year has passed, and urged the government to step up its efforts to resolve the case.

Hasuike also criticized North Korea, saying, “I don’t understand why (Pyongyang) refuses to return our families back to us.”

Earlier in the day, government leaders in Tokyo reiterated their call on North Korea to enable the five former abductees’ reunion with their relatives.

“We’ll make efforts so that the relatives (of the five) can come to Japan as soon as possible,” Koizumi told reporters.

Abductee story

TOTTORI (Kyodo) The brother of a woman who disappeared from Yonago, Tottori Prefecture, in 1977 said Tuesday he recently met a North Korean defector who claimed to have met her in the reclusive state in the mid-1990s.

Kyoko Matsumoto went missing at the age of 29. Her family believes she may have been abducted to North Korea.

Her 56-year-old brother, Hajime, told a news conference in Tottori that he met the defector in Seoul on Oct. 7 after being approached by a journalist who knew the North Korean.

Matsumoto said the defector identified himself as Kim Kuk Sok, a 36-year-old former captain of the North Korean army who defected in 2000. Kim reportedly said he has a trade-related job.

Kim told Matsumoto that he had met a woman who might have been Kyoko on four occasions between 1994 and 1997 in the North Korean port city of Chongjin near the border with Russia. The city is known as a base for espionage operations against Japan.

According to Matsumoto, Kim said he saw a North Korean military officer address the woman as “Kyoko-san” in Japanese at a liaison office in May 1996. The woman told Kim that she was from Japan, Matsumoto said.

After being shown a photo of Kyoko, Kim told Matsumoto that the woman he last saw in Chongjin six years ago “closely resembled” his sister, Matsumoto said.

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