NEW YORK - The brother of a 13-year-old girl who was one of a number of Japanese abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s pressed the international community at a gathering at the United Nations on Wednesday to keep a spotlight on the issue of those forcibly taken from their countries.
“The abductions of Japanese by North Korea are not random incidents caused by a single spy, this is international terrorism,” Takuya Yokota said at the Japanese government-sponsored symposium.
Yokota’s older sister, Megumi, was taken while on her way home from middle school in Niigata Prefecture in 1977 and is among 17 Japanese confirmed by Tokyo to have been snatched by North Korean agents. North Korea admitted in 2002 to having abducted Japanese.
Yokota, secretary-general of the Association of Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea, said more than 800 Japanese who have disappeared under mysterious circumstances are now being considered as possible abductees.
Yokota noted the victims of the abductions were not only Japanese but also Thais, South Koreans, Lebanese and Romanians, who he said are “still living in hell.”
Shoichi Osawa, whose younger brother, Takashi, disappeared as a 27-year-old from Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture, also spoke at the symposium.
He said he believes “abduction professionals” took his brother away.
Takashi was last seen buying cigarettes at a store after eating out on a snowy Sunday in February 1974. He was never heard from again.
“Please help us as we strive for the release of the abductees so that they can maintain their dignity as human beings and enjoy freedom once again,” Osawa said.
Katsunobu Kato, Japan’s minister in charge of the abduction issue, opened the meeting. Other participants included Marzuki Darusman, the U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights situation in North Korea, Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for the North Korean Human Rights issues and Param-Preet Singh, senior counsel for Human Rights Watch.
In addition to the two family members of the abductees, Oh Sehyek, a North Korean defector, also spoke about his life in the North after his father was arrested. He now lives in South Korea.
“The human rights violations by North Korea are an international issue,” Kato said, adding that the international community must work together through various U.N. channels to try to resolve the problem without delay.