An order has been issued in North Korea for authorities to provide “a sufficient degree of medical care” to a Japanese woman abducted by agents of Pyongyang in the 1970s, a person familiar with the situation said Sunday.
It is highly likely that the order was issued by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to Choi Song Ryong, who heads a support group for relatives of South Korean abductees. He said the information was obtained from his source in Pyongyang.
“There is a possibility that authorities in the North are managing the health (of those abducted by Pyongyang in the past) while keeping in mind future negotiations with Japan and other countries,” Choi said.
Kyoko Matsumoto, from the city of Yonago in Tottori Prefecture, was 29 at the time of her disappearance in 1977.
At present, Japan officially lists 17 nationals as abductees but suspects North Korea’s involvement in many more disappearances. While five of the 17 were repatriated in 2002, Japan continues to seek the return of the 12 remaining people.
Of the 12, North Korea claims that eight have died and that four others, including Matsumoto, never entered the country.
Matsumoto is in a facility in Kaechon, on the outskirts of Pyongyang, Choi said, adding that a Thai abductee — Anocha Panjoy, who went missing in 1978 in Macao at the age of 23 — also lives in the city.
Matsumoto and Anocha have chronic diseases, and see doctors regularly at the Korea General Red Cross Hospital in Pyongyang and other facilities where they can receive high-level medical services, according to Choi.
As the Thai government has issued strong demands for North Korea to confirm Anocha’s survival and her return, Choi said the source believes Pyongyang has placed importance on their health.
“As for Ms. Matsumoto, information about her survival has emerged several times, but there are no signs of the Japanese government making strong requests of North Korea like the Thai government,” Choi said.
Choi is the person who disclosed information in 2012 that Matsumoto had been relocated to Pyongyang after having lived for a long time in Chongjin, in the northeast of North Korea.
South Korea’s spy agency confirmed the information in 2013.
In 2016, again citing his source in Pyongyang, Choi revealed that Matsumoto was suffering from severe vision impairment and complications from gout, and that she was staying at the Red Cross hospital.
It has been said that Matsumoto was later discharged from the hospital and transferred to Kaechon around the time that a woman believed to be Anocha was transferred to the city.