National

Lawmaker reveals photos of family reunion involving parents of North Korea abductee

Kyodo

A Japanese lawmaker on Thursday disclosed two photographs showing a 2014 family reunion between the parents of Megumi Yokota, who was abducted from Japan to North Korea in 1977, and Megumi’s daughter, Kim Eun Gyong.

The photographs, taken during the March 10-14 meeting that year, were disclosed by House of Councilors member Yoshifu Arita.

One of them shows Shigeru, 83, and Sakie, 80, holding a baby girl — Kim’s daughter and their great-granddaughter — and the other shows Kim with her hand on her grandmother’s shoulder as Sakie holds the baby.

The photos were among several pictures taken by Kim’s husband at the state guesthouse in the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator and given to the Japanese couple.

Arita, who has long worked on the abduction issue, said the Yokotas had given him the photos and permission to disclose them.

The couple said in a released statement that the meeting was “a very happy moment” for them and as two years have already passed they wanted to let people know how joyful they felt at that time.

“We want to ask the government to secure the return of all abduction victims as soon as possible,” they said.

Shigeru and Sakie met with Kim, now 28, her North Korean husband and their daughter, then 10 months old, for the first time from March 10 to 14 in 2014. Kim Young Nam, a South Korean man abducted to North Korea and Kim’s father, was not present at the meeting.

“I hope people will understand the tragedy that they cannot freely see not only their daughter but also their granddaughter and great-granddaughter,” said Arita, adding that making efforts to enable them to meet more frequently could help the stalled Japan-North Korea negotiations.

Following the Yokotas’ meeting with their granddaughter and Japan-North Korea meetings in Beijing and Stockholm, Japan and North Korea announced an agreement in May 2014 under which Pyongyang would reinvestigate abductions and Tokyo would subsequently ease its sanctions against Pyongyang.

In February, however, North Korea said it had disbanded the special committee to investigate the whereabouts of missing Japanese nationals in response to Japan’s announcement of further sanctions following North Korea’s latest nuclear test and rocket launch.

Japan officially lists 17 nationals as victims of North Korean abductions in the 1970s and 1980s. Megumi has become a symbol of the issue.

North Korea is suspected to be involved in the disappearances of more Japanese nationals.