Relatives of two people who disappeared in the 1960s and ’70s urged the government Monday to officially recognize them as having been abducted to North Korea.
On Sunday, it was learned that Hiroshi Saito and Kyoko Matsumoto may be in a photo that belonged to a man who fled to South Korea from North Korea last year.
“It is a very solid piece of information,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said Monday as he discussed the latest finding.
He said Tokyo would press the North for information about Saito and Matsumoto.
Saito vanished in December 1968 at age 18 and Matsumoto disappeared in October 1977 at age 29, a group working on behalf of relatives of Japanese believed kidnapped to North Korea said Sunday. The group said the TBS TV network originally obtained the photo.
The photo was analyzed by Tokyo Dental College.
Masatsugu Hashimoto, a Tokyo Dental College associate professor, compared the latest photo with Saito and Matsumoto’s facial features in photos taken before they vanished.
He said it is “safe” to say Saito appears in the latest photo, and that another person in the photo is “likely” Matsumoto.
Saito was a third-year high school student when he disappeared after saying he was going to visit the home of a friend in Wakkanai, Hokkaido.
Matsumoto was last seen in Yonago, Tottori Prefecture, after she was witnessed talking to two men in a wooded area. One of her sandals was later found in the area. She had told her family she was going to a knitting class.
In August, the man who fled from North Korea was also found to have photos of a man who was later identified as Susumu Fujita, who disappeared in 1976 at age 19, and a woman who was identified as Teruko Kase, who vanished in 1962 at age 17.
The government asked North Korea about Matsumoto, Fujita and other suspected abductees during a meeting in Pyongyang in November. North Korea said it could not confirm they had entered the country.
In 2002, North Korea admitted it kidnapped 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s. It allowed five of them to return to Japan later in the year. It said the other eight had died.
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