SEOUL – The government received a wedding-day photograph of a woman thought to be a Japanese abductee to North Korea, provided on Wednesday by a Seoul-based advocacy group for the families of South Korean civilians thought to be kidnapped by the North.
Officials from the Foreign Ministry visited the office of the Abductees’ Family Union in Seoul and took away the black-and-white photo — likely of Kyoko Matsumoto from Tottori Prefecture — after asking questions including on how the snapshot was obtained, Choi Sung-yong, the head of the group, said.
If Tokyo’s investigation confirms the identity of the woman in the photo as Matsumoto, who was kidnapped by North Korean agents in 1977 when she was 29, Choi said that he was happy to cooperate and ask the person who provided the group with the picture for further details.
While declining to elaborate, Choi told reporters that he received the photo from a person familiar with the abduction issue in Pyongyang four months ago.
On Matsumoto’s current whereabouts, Choi previously said she was admitted to a hospital in the North Korean capital.
Matsumoto is now under surveillance at a facility in Kaechon, northeast of Pyongyang, Choi said in the latest interview, referencing information that he had received.
Tottori Prefecture asked the central government for more information on Wednesday after the photo was publicized.
The prefectural government sought confirmation on the identity of the woman in the photo. It also delivered a message from Matsumoto’s older brother seeking an early return home of all Japanese abductees.
According to the prefecture, the 70-year-old brother, Hajime, said in the message that he is not sure whether the woman in the photo is his sister, and wonders where the photo came from.
“I would be grateful if it is really my sister in the photo. I hope for her early return home,” he was quoted as saying in the message.
In response, the central government task force on the abduction issue declined comment on individual cases, including the authenticity of the photo, according to the prefectural government.
Kyoko Matsumoto vanished on her way to a knitting class close to her home in Yonago on Oct. 21, 1977. At the time, police had detected suspicious radio signals.
In 2006, she was recognized by the Japanese government as having been kidnapped by North Korean agents.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.