1970 hijackers living in North Korea to start posting on Twitter

Kyodo

Four Japanese who are wanted for the hijacking of a Japan Airlines jet to Pyongyang in 1970, and who are still living in North Korea, will start microblogging on Twitter on Friday, according to a group of their Japanese supporters.

The four fugitives, including 70-year-old leader Takahiro Konishi, have been living in a so-called Japanese Village near Pyongyang.

They were among nine members of the former Japanese Communist League Red Army Faction who hijacked the jet in what came to be known as the Yodo-go Incident, after the plane’s nickname.

They commandeered the Boeing 727 while it was flying from Tokyo to Fukuoka on March 31, 1970. After releasing some passengers in Fukuoka and at an airport in South Korea, they flew to Pyongyang on April 3, where they were granted political asylum.

According to Japanese security officials, the four fugitives reside in the village together with the Japanese wives of two comrades who joined them afterward. It is believed that the four fugitives are the last of the nine hijackers still alive.

Because Internet access in the village is limited, messages written by the fugitives will be sent by email to supporters in Japan, who will post them on Twitter, the group said.

According to journalist Reinin Shiino, who has gone to Pyongyang a number of times to interview them, Konishi told a group of supporters who visited the village in August 2013 that they wanted to post messages on Twitter.

Konishi reportedly said they were inspired by the Arab Spring anti-government uprisings in the Middle East in 2011. It is believed that social media played a significant role in the successful uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

In addition to basic information on the fugitives, the posts are intended to offer a glimpse of their daily life, including their meals.

The support group also said on Wednesday they will respond to questions, such as how they earn their living.

“I believe this will be a good chance to learn about their life (in North Korea),” Shiino said.

A public safety official in Japan said the fugitives should not report on their lives from afar, but should instead return to Japan to give a full account of the hijacking.

The foursome has expressed a desire to return to Japan in the past, and issued a statement in 2002 calling on the government to hold talks over their return, indicating they would travel to Japan even if it meant they would be arrested.

The fugitives are still on the international wanted list. One of the four and two of their wives are also suspected of helping North Korea abduct Japanese in Europe in the 1970s and 1980s. They have denied involvement in the kidnappings.

Known as Sekigunha in Japanese, the Red Army Faction was formed in 1969 and advocated global revolution through armed struggle.