The government will start a training program for schoolteachers in the autumn to foster better youth understanding of the abduction issue involving North Korea, officials said.

The government’s Headquarters for Abduction Issue hopes the training program for elementary, junior high and high school teachers will help enlighten children about the decades-old issue, which is less known by younger generations, the officials said. The issue refers to Japanese who were kidnapped by North Korean spies in the 1970s and 1980s to teach Japanese to its agents.

According to a Cabinet Office poll in December that allowed multiple answers, 78.3 percent of the respondents cited the abductions as an issue of interest related to North Korea, second after its missile development program.

But the ratio of respondents who chose the abduction issue was lowest among those between 18 and 29, the youngest age group in the survey, at 64.9 percent.

“There may be those who have a fleeting knowledge of the issue,” said Kenji Goro, deputy director for the policy planning division of the headquarters. “We want to increase the number of young people who know more about it.”

The government has already come up with ideas on content for the training course, including talks with returnees, family members of abductees, and journalists who have covered the issue in the past. Also under consideration are visits to sites where people were snatched, and lectures involving people who are involved in the investigations.

At the end of the program, teachers may be advised to draft teaching plans or encouraged to attend an annual event in December aimed at raising public awareness of the issue.

The program will start in early autumn and continue for a couple of months, according to the officials.

In the first year, the main participants will be teachers’ supervisors at local education boards, with around 100 people expected to take part. The government has set aside ¥15 million under the fiscal 2018 budget to launch the project.

“It will be meaningful for teachers if they can give more vigorous classes on the abduction issue on the basis of their own unique experience and knowledge gained through this program, with the understanding that this is not a part of history,” Goro emphasized.

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