Mr. Charles Jenkins on Tuesday arrived in Sado, Niigata Prefecture, together with his wife Ms. Hitomi Soga, a former abductee to North Korea, and their two daughters after serving a short sentence for desertion from the U.S. Army. Sado is Ms. Soga’s hometown. Procedures for Mr. Jenkins’ dishonorable discharge from the military are expected to be completed soon, after which he will be free at last.
So far fate has been very unkind to the four of them. We sincerely hope that from now on they will be able to lead happy lives without being restrained by anyone. For this purpose, the prefectural and municipal authorities should do their utmost to help Mr. Jenkins find a job locally, because that is what he says he wants to do, and to assist the daughters in their university studies.
In addition to support from public authorities, it is important that the local people create a warm environment for the family. In a trial by court-martial, Mr. Jenkins received a 30-day prison sentence for having deserted the U.S. Army in South Korea in 1965, when he was a sergeant, and fleeing to North Korea. He served the sentence, which was shortened because of his good behavior, at the U.S. Navy’s Yokosuka Base. He was then returned to the U.S. Army’s Camp Zama.
Now that the case of Mr. Jenkins, which had been a sensitive issue between the Japanese and U.S. governments, has been settled, full efforts must be made to uncover the truth about 10 other missing Japanese abductees, including Ms. Soga’s mother, who North Korea says never entered the country. Ms. Soga once commented, “What a difficult life it has been.”
While it is wonderful that the family of four is now able to fulfill its long-cherished desire to live in Sado, the curtain won’t really close on their “difficult life” until the fate of Ms. Soga’s mother is confirmed. North Korean authorities should clarify the truth about every single abductee.
North Korea’s insincere attitude is made clear in an interview that Mr. Jenkins gave in a recent issue of Time magazine. Mr. Jenkins says the North Korean government enrolled his daughters in Pyongyang’s elite Foreign Language College with the intention of training them as spies and sending them to South Korea. When Mr. Jenkins traveled to Indonesia to meet his wife, who had returned to Japan, he said, “They promised me all kinds of things if I came back with my wife. They would give me a new car, a new house, new clothes, a new television. They told me everything I wanted would be Kim Jong Il’s gift.”
Hearing testimonies like this, one cannot help but be highly suspicious of the explanations that North Korea has given so far in three rounds of working-level consultations with Japan on the abduction issue. In the third round of consultations, held in Pyongyang in November, North Korea did not offer any new information to alter its repeated position that of the 10 missing Japanese nationals “eight died and two never entered the country.”
The only progress seen on that occasion was North Korea’s delivery of some remains that it said were those of abductee Ms. Megumi Yokota — some photographs of Ms. Yokota and a few things relating to other abductees.
An analysis of this evidence has been attempted, but apparently the remains are insufficient and had been burned at a high temperature. On Wednesday, the government announced that DNA testing found that the remains said to be of Ms. Yokota were of a different person. There are also suspicions about whether a man interviewed by the Japanese delegation really was Ms. Yokota’s husband in North Korea.
Under these circumstances, Ms. Yokota’s parents and the families of other abductees are becoming increasingly impatient. At a joint meeting the other day of the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea and the National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea, it was pointed out that results of the reinvestigation by North Korea contained up to 60 dubious and contradictory points. The associations stated that the truth would not be uncovered even if consultations are continued and urged the government to impose economic sanctions.
Meanwhile, in a special committee on the abduction issue set up in the House of Representatives during the last extraordinary session of the Diet, committee members called for sanctions against North Korea. In response, the Rodong Shimbun, the official organ of the Korean Workers’ Party, has described the reinvestigation of the abductees as a “problem of dead persons” and commented, “We have made the utmost efforts and handed over everything that can be handed over to Japan.”
If this is North Korea’s official position, then Pyongyang should understand that not a single Japanese is convinced.
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