• Kyodo

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A group that has been helping people visit the graves of their relatives in North Korea said it will disband after Pyongyang agreed to conduct a survey into the locations of grave sites.

Some 34,600 Japanese are believed to have died of hunger and disease around the end of World War II in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula, which was under Japanese rule from 1910 to 1945. The remains of 21,600 are believed to have been buried in North Korea, while those of others have been repatriated to Japan.

The Association for Families to Retrieve Japanese Remains in DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said it will disband, citing an agreement between Japan and North Korea in May 2014 that paved the way for Pyongyang to look into the remains and graves of those Japanese, in addition to re-investigating the abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents.

The group, established in 2012, also said the decision to disband is based on the Japanese government’s lifting last year of restrictions on Japanese trying to visit North Korea.

A similar Japanese group received approval from North Korea earlier this month to visit relatives’ graves in August.

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