A former Pyongyang spy told a Diet panel Thursday that 15 abducted Japanese were alive in North Korea between 1988 and 1991 and suggested one of the five repatriated in 2002 has information about many of those still missing.

An Myong Jin, who defected to the South in 1993, told the panel, “I have firsthand information, including what I saw myself, that 15 Japanese were alive in North Korea.”

An cited his own encounters with 11 of the 15 abductees in question between October 1988 and early 1991 at what is now Kim Jong Il Political and Military University, from which he graduated.

An said he obtained information about the survival of the other four abductees separately during the same period.

His comments were delivered to a House of Representatives panel investigating the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents.

An also stated that certain individuals, including teachers at Kim Jong Il Political and Military University, had suggested that these were only some — not all — of the Japanese who were abducted in the 1970s and early 1980s.

“I heard the number (of Japanese abductees) could grow to more than 30,” An said.

An, who now lives in South Korea, arrived in Japan on Wednesday to testify before the committee. He is the first former North Korean agent to speak at the Diet.

An is said to have received training as an agent at the Pyongyang university from 1987. Some agents there “boasted” about having kidnapped Japanese in the past, An told the Diet session.

He mentioned nine of the 15 by name, while referring to six others as “two male teachers, two female teachers, a man kidnapped from Hokkaido whose Korean was poor, and a woman” he saw at a bomb-training site.

An said six of the 15 Japanese he had spoken of were among the 16 on Tokyo’s official list of abductees.

The six are Megumi Yokota, Shuichi Ichikawa, Rumiko Masumoto, Kaoru Hasuike, Minoru Tanaka and Yaeko Taguchi, An said.

Japan placed Tanaka, a noodle shop employee, on the list in April. An said Tanaka had taught Japanese at the university. Asked about Megumi Yokota, An said he strongly believed she is still alive. North Korea claims she killed herself in 1994.

An said North Korea is “lying” about what happened to some of the abductees. While Pyongyang told Japan that Ichikawa died in 1979, An said he spoke to and shared cigarettes with him in 1991.

The ex-agent also said he saw Masumoto “around 1990,” even though North Korea claims she died in 1981.

An said he did not know these people’s names at the time, but “clearly remembered” their faces and features.

An described Kim Jong Il as a “devil and a common enemy of humanity” and said he believes Kim himself ordered the kidnappings in his capacity as chief of the intelligence section. Kim led the section through the 1970s, according to An.

He also expressed regret that the Japanese government had only recognized six of the 15 as abduction victims.

North Korea allowed Hasuike and four others, who were not among the six listed, to return to Japan in 2002. It also claimed three of the 16 on the Japanese list had never entered the country, and eight others had died there.

An told the Diet panel that he believes Hasuike “must have information about many” of the abductees and expressed hope he would “not fear North Korea but speak up for the sake of the Japanese people.”

After the committee session, relatives of Japanese believed abducted once again urged the government to strive for a breakthrough in its talks with North Korea.

They repeated their call for Tokyo to impose economic sanctions on Pyongyang if the talks remain deadlocked.

Yokota’s mom, Sakie, urged Tokyo to confront Pyongyang “with much greater rage.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda later confirmed that the government had earlier obtained “various pieces of information” from An as part of its abduction probe. But he said he would not comment on details of what An told the Diet session.

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