A South Korean man who had been abducted to North Korea said Tuesday in Tokyo he saw at least 20 suspected Japanese abductees there in the early 1970s.

Lee Jae Keun, 65, is one of three visiting South Koreans who escaped after years of detention in North Korea. He was kidnapped to the country decades ago.

He was accompanied by Choi Sung Yong, a representative of an association of Koreans whose families were abducted to North Korea, and returnees Gim Byeong Do, 51, and Jin Jeng Pal, 63.

Lee told a news conference at the Diet he saw about six or seven Japanese every New Year’s at a Pyongyang hotel and “guest house” in the suburbs between 1971 and 1973.

He said they were wearing clothes different from those worn by Koreans. He recognized some Japanese words they spoke, he said.

Lee was kidnapped by North Korean agents in April 1970, and returned home in July 2000 via China after escaping from the North.

The South Koreans are visiting Japan through Sunday at the invitation of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan. They are working with Japanese lawmakers and the families of Japanese abductees to have South Korean abductees returned home.

Lee said the number of Japanese and South Koreans abducted to North Korea is much larger than confirmed by Tokyo and Seoul.

The two governments officially say 486 South Koreans and 15 Japanese nationals were kidnapped.

“But as far as I know, more than 600 Koreans were kidnapped and I think more than 100 Japanese were abducted” by North Korean agents, he said. North Korea admitted in 2002 it abducted 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s. It has sent five of them back to Japan but insists the others have died.

Choi, whose father was kidnapped by North Korean agents in 1967, helped the three abductees return home from China between 2000 and 2003.


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