SEOUL – A Japanese woman believed to have been whisked away to North Korea in 1977 may now be in Pyongyang after being shifted from the place where she was residing, the head of a group of families of South Korean abductees said Sunday in Seoul.
Choi Song Yong said information obtained from informed sources in North Korea indicates Kyoko Matsumoto was moved to Pyongyang around November 2011 from Chongjin, where she used to live.
Matsumoto was moved to the capital on the orders of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who was involved in supervising abductees at the time of her transfer while his father, the late Kim Jong Il, was still alive, Choi said.
Kim Jong Un issued the order to tighten surveillance of the abductees because he was worried about the South taking the abduction issue to the United Nations.
Matsumoto disappeared in Yonago, Tottori Prefecture, when she was 29 after leaving home on the night of Oct. 21, 1977. In November 2006, Japan added Matsumoto to its official list of abductees, but Pyongyang insists she never entered North Korea.
Choi is known to have unique access to North Korea and has been successful in liberating several South Korean abductees from the clutches of the starving, reclusive nation. He has also obtained information on Japanese abductees.
Japan and North Korea held a two-day meeting in Mongolia on Nov. 16 and 17 in which the two sides agreed to hold the next round of bilateral talks as early as possible.
In September 2002, North Korea admitted it abducted 13 Japanese nationals in the late 1970s and early 1980s but said eight of them had died. The five others were allowed to return to Japan the following month.
Japan recognizes 17 nationals — including the 13 — as abductees. The abduction issue remains a major obstacle to normalizing diplomatic ties between the two countries.