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A woman in a photograph smuggled out of North Korea is likely to be Teruko Kase, who disappeared in Chiba Prefecture some 40 years ago, according to a preliminary expert examination.

Analysis conducted by Masatsugu Hashimoto, an assistant professor at Tokyo Dental College, suggests Kase is the woman in the photo and therefore may have been abducted by North Korea.

Kase went missing in the town of Unakami, Chiba Prefecture, in April 1962, after leaving home for a beauty parlor, according to the Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea, a private group involved in the abduction issue.

She was 17 years old and was due to go to Shinjuku Koma Theater in Tokyo the next day with her aunt. The commission said last May it is highly likely she was abducted to North Korea.

In a preliminary examination, Hashimoto compared the woman in the photo with a picture of Kase and concluded the facial features are identical. Hashimoto said the results of a thorough examination is expected in about a week.

The photo was smuggled out of North Korea by a man who fled to China and currently lives in South Korea.

The man also brought a photograph of a man who is considered likely to be Susumu Fujita, who disappeared in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, in 1976.

Hashimoto also examined that picture and said in August the man in the photo is highly likely to be Fujita, who went missing in Kawaguchi after leaving home for a part-time job when he was a 19-year-old freshman at Tokyo Gakugei University.

Japan has raised the Fujita case during bilateral talks with North Korea on the abduction issue.

Kase and Fujita are not among the 15 Japanese who the government officially recognizes as being abducted by the North in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said Saturday that Japan will bring up the Kase case at its next talks with North Korea if the government confirms that the photo smuggled out of the country is that of the woman.

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