• Kyodo


Hitomi Soga, one of the five Japanese abducted by North Korea in 1978 who returned to Japan a year ago, expressed frustration Wednesday at the way the government has handled her case.

“If there are no developments, nobody contacts me,” Soga told a news conference in her hometown of Mano on Sado Island on the first anniversary of her homecoming. “I don’t know who I can trust and there have been times I felt deserted.

“I want the government to use every possible means to solve the abduction issue,” she said.

Soga, 44, and her mother, Miyoshi, were kidnapped by North Korean agents on the evening of Aug. 12, 1978.

She expressed anxiety about being separated from her North Korean-born daughters and American husband, who she left behind in Pyongyang when she came back to Japan.

Also, she worries about her mother, whose fate remains unknown.

“The saddest thing (during the past year) was that I could not meet my mother, who I had believed would be here living happily, and I have had to live alone,” she said. “I have no information on my mother’s whereabouts. I want to hear about my mother from the North Korean authorities if possible.”

For the first time, Soga explained to a news conference how she was abducted with her mother, who was 46 at the time.

“While I was walking and talking with my mother on the evening of Aug. 12, three men lined up side by side started following us,” she said.

“We were suddenly attacked just as we were saying to each other ‘What is happening?’ and I was put into a sack with my mouth sealed and my hands and legs bound,” she said.

Soga said her happiest moment in the past year was when she was able to come back to Japan, which she had “dreamed of for 24 years.”

“I will never give up and I’ll try to do my best until the day I can live with my family,” she said.

Soga returned to Japan on Oct. 15, 2002, with Kaoru Hasuike, 46, his wife Yukiko, 47; and Yasushi Chimura, 48, and his wife Fukie, 48.

Soga left behind a husband, a former U.S. Army sergeant, and two daughters in Pyongyang.

She said that when she was in the North she once heard other abduction victims saying even more Japanese had been abducted.

She also said she used to go shopping with Megumi Yokota, who was abducted in Niigata Prefecture in 1977 at the age of 13.

North Korea has told Japan that Yokota committed suicide in 1993, but her family and supporters reject this and are demanding her return.

Soga said Yokota’s daughter was probably named after her. The daughter’s name is Kim Hye Gyong, while Soga’s name in North Korea was Min Hye Gyong.

“She probably gave the same name to her daughter as she could not forget about me,” Soga said.

Soga has said she once lived in the same facility as Yokota.

She said she met Yokota’s daughter Kim for the first time when she came to the Pyongyang airport a year ago to see the five returnees off. She said she still does not believe that Yokota is dead.

Ferry calls again

NIIGATA (Kyodo) The North Korean ferry Mangyongbong-92 made a short call here Wednesday, and prosecutors again questioned its captain on a charge of carrying too many passengers during a voyage in early September.

The passenger-cargo ship arrived shortly after 8:30 a.m. and departed about nine hours later.

Last month, the Japan Coast Guard sent to prosecutors its case on the 56-year-old captain, Jang Chang Yong, for allegedly carrying 35 more passengers than the ship’s legally set capacity of 220 on Sept. 5.

The captain apparently learned from his crew that the ship had been overloaded around 11:30 a.m. — 90 minutes after leaving Niigata port and about 29 km out to sea, investigative sources said.

Under Japanese legislation, a ship’s captain can only be prosecuted for carrying too many passengers if the overloading is deliberate.

The coast guard believes that because the captain continued on after learning of the discrepancy, the overloading was a deliberate act. But prosecutors will have to prove whether it was feasible for the ship to return to Niigata after being so far out to sea.

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