North Korea has compiled a list of Japanese nationals who remained there after the end of World War II, and of the Japanese wives of pro-Pyongyang Korean residents of Japan who moved to the North under a 1959-1984 repatriation project, sources say.
The Japanese government appears to be aware of the list, the sources said on Thursday. A delegation of officials from Tokyo is traveling to Pyongyang in the hopes that the North’s special investigation committee on the matter will convey its findings to them.
Since North Korea launched a new investigation in July into all Japanese in the country, including abductees and other missing Japanese suspected to have been abducted, the committee has been compiling a list of Japanese residents by visiting them, based on registers kept by security institutions and relevant committees across the country, according to the sources.
The visits were aimed at determining marital status, family makeup, and whether such individuals wish to move to Japan, the sources said.
Some individuals discovered for the first time that they were Japanese during the inquiries, while others were recognized as missing people transferred from other areas, the sources said.
The initial round of inquiries appears to have ended by late August, they said.
Japanese officials are aware that North Korea may push for the further easing of sanctions by presenting such findings as a sign of progress in its investigation into all Japanese in the country, including Japanese nationals whom North Korean agents abducted in the 1970s and 1980s, the sources said.
In the aftermath of World War II, some Japanese remained in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula, which was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945. Around 1,800 Japanese women accompanied their Korean spouses to North Korea under the repatriation project handled by the Red Cross societies of the two countries.
Japan has announced it will send a delegation of around 10 officials to Pyongyang from Monday to Thursday, to check on North Korea’s investigation into abductees and other missing Japanese.
The delegation, which will be led by Junichi Ihara, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, is expected to tell North Korean officials that the abduction issue is the highest priority for Japan and ask questions about the current state of the investigation.
In an attempt to advance the investigation, the delegation may arrange talks with So Tae Ha, chairman of the North’s special investigation committee, hoping to receive a briefing on the probe directly from him. So is also vice minister of state security.
Japan has officially listed 17 nationals as having been abducted in the 1970s and 1980s, but suspects North Korea’s involvement in many other disappearances.
Five of the 17 returned to Japan in 2002 after a historic visit to Pyongyang by then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
North Korea has conducted investigations into the abductions of Japanese nationals in the past, but Japan did not accept the results, saying they were unconvincing.
Japan and North Korea have no diplomatic relations.