• Kyodo

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A memorial was held Saturday for Shigeru Yokota, a prominent figure due to his tireless campaigning for the return of his daughter, Megumi, and her compatriots who were abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga attended the central Tokyo ceremony and pledged to work toward a resolution of the issue, describing Yokota as someone “whose words moved people’s hearts.”

Yokota, 87 at the time of his death from old age in June, was tragically drawn into the issue when Megumi was abducted in 1977 at age 13.

He worked for more than two decades alongside family members of other abductees in pressing the Japanese government to make every effort to rescue their loved ones, whom they believe are still alive in the North.

Yokota’s daughter, however, has yet to return to Japan after her kidnapping and he never saw her again.

The number of people at the memorial was limited due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Suga and his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, were able to attend.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at the memorial on Saturday | KYODO
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at the memorial on Saturday | KYODO

“As prime minister, I will take the lead in making a breakthrough (on the abduction issue) without missing any opportunities,” Suga said.

Yokota’s wife, Sakie, 84, attended the event, which was organized by a group of family members of abductees and their supporters.

When Yokota was working for the Niigata branch of the Bank of Japan, his oldest daughter Megumi, who was in her first year of junior high school, disappeared on her way home from school on Nov. 15, 1977.

Yokota and his wife, along with seven other families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents, formed a victims’ group in March 1997 to raise public awareness of the abduction issue.

Yokota served as the group’s chief for more than 10 years until November 2007, when he resigned due to health reasons. He was succeeded by Shigeo Iizuka, the older brother of Yaeko Taguchi, who was abducted by North Korea in 1978 when she was 22.

Yokota continued to work with his wife on the abduction issue before falling ill and being hospitalized in April 2018.

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