• Kyodo

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Messages posted on Twitter by a group of Japanese who defected to North Korea after hijacking a Japan Airlines jetliner to Pyongyang in 1970, and by their wives, have attracted more than 4,000 followers — and mostly harsh reactions — since starting last October.

“I would like to talk about history, such as Japan-North Korea relations from the viewpoint of a person who has stayed in North Korea for more than 40 years. Of course, also about the abduction issue” pertaining to Japanese kidnapped by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s, tweeted Kimihiro Uomoto, 66, who is on the international wanted list over an abduction case as well as the hijacking.

Four out of the nine members of the radical Red Army Faction who hijacked the JAL domestic flight and diverted it to North Korea still live in the reclusive state, along with two of the eight Japanese wives who joined them later.

They started tweeting last Oct. 3 after one of them, Takahiro Konishi, 70, consulted with Hasumi Kobayashi, 42, a supporter and freelance writer who was visiting North Korea. In August 2013, the two discussed exchanging views with younger generations through the Twitter microblogging site that had played a role in the Arab Spring 2011 uprisings in the Middle East.

As the Japanese exiles can’t post messages from North Korea, the fugitives send emails to their supporters in Japan who then post them online on a monthly basis, according to Reinin Shiino, 65, an editor who has been interacting with them.

Followers’ reactions have been mostly critical, with some positive reactions and frank questions.

In response to Konishi’s post saying, “Why didn’t I return to Japan? That’s a good question. I want to talk about it from now,” a Twitter user wrote it is “impossible for you to be acquitted and return (to Japan). I don’t want to hear useless heroic stories.”

In a recent telephone interview, Konishi said: “There are more harsh reactions than expected. But we should respond to these voices. Although their messages are biased, we can touch fresh voices from Japan. Even though there are many hate expressions, we’d rather tweet more.”

The four men, including Uomoto and Konishi, are on the wanted list on suspicion of violating the Hijack Prevention Law, while Uomoto and the two women are also wanted on suspicion of involvement in abductions of three Japanese in Europe, charges they deny.

Kobayashi the supporter said, “It was meaningful that a new channel was established as younger generations didn’t even know of their existence.”

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