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A group investigating abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea has retracted its claim that two people shown in a photograph carried by a North Korean defector are two missing Japanese nationals.

The photo, which was provided by Tokyo Broadcasting System Inc. to the Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to N. Korea, was believed to show Hiroshi Saito, who disappeared in December 1968 at age 18, and Kyoko Matsumoto, who vanished in October 1977 at age 29.

After the group’s news conference was broadcast Sunday, however, TBS received calls that the two in the photo are not Saito and Matsumoto.

TBS officials then contacted the North Korean defector who provided the photo and met the man and woman in the photo in Seoul. They told TBS they are North Koreans who fled to South Korea.

On Wednesday, TBS apologized to relatives of the missing pair. The broadcaster paid the defector for the photo in November, but declined to reveal how much it spent.

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