• Kyodo

  • SHARE

A man missing since 1997 and thought possibly abducted by North Korea has been found within Japan, police have confirmed.

Kazuya Miyauchi, 51, who went missing at the age of 32 in Fukui Prefecture, was found in early June, the Fukui police said Thursday, adding it has been confirmed the former local government employee was not abducted. He later met with his family who confirmed his identity.

It was not immediately clear where Miyauchi has been for nearly 20 years, nor what he has been doing.

According to police, Miyauchi told his colleagues at a town office in the prefecture that he was heading to a boat storage area and went missing after that.

“I am sorry for the people who supported us in searching for him, including those who offered signatures. But I’m so happy that he’s alive,” said Kanae Sawa, 60, Miyauchi’s brother-in-law.

In a news conference on Friday, Sawa said Miyauchi apologized to him when they met. Police contacted Sawa on Wednesday to tell him that they had found Miyauchi, he said.

Police have not released information on where he was found and how, citing privacy concerns.

Miyauchi was listed among over 800 people who are missing in Japan without an apparent reason and who the police cannot rule out were possibly kidnapped by North Korea.

Pyongyang admitted in 2002 to abducting Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s and has since returned five people. Japan has officially classified another 12 people as having been abducted by the North.