The Japanese government has announced DNA analysis results that indicate that the daughter of Ms. Megumi Yokota, a Japanese abducted by North Korean agents in 1977, was very likely fathered by a South Korean man also abducted by the Pyongyang regime in the 1970s, a Mr. Kim Young Nam. There is now a strong possibility that Mr. Kim Young Nam was Ms. Yotoka’s husband. This undermines North Korea’s explanation that Ms. Yokota’s husband is a North Korean man by the name of Kim Chol Jun. In light of these findings, North Korea should release full information concerning Ms. Yokota and her husband, as well as information on other Japanese people abducted by its agents. The findings also offer a foundation for cooperation between Japan and South Korea to press North Korea to disclose the truth about abductions.
At Tokyo’s request, Seoul provided DNA samples from relatives of five South Korean men believed to have been abducted to North Korea. The government then entrusted those South Korean samples and DNA samples from Ms. Yokota’s daughter, Kim Hye Gyong, to two Japanese universities for testing. Both university tests established a probability of 99.5 percent and 97.5 percent, respectively, that Mr. Kim Young Nam is related by blood to Ms. Yokota’s daughter.
The Japanese government announced the DNA test results while key negotiators to the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear-arms programs were in Tokyo to attend an academic forum on security issues in Northeast Asia. North Korea refused to accept the announcement, calling it an attempt to foment a bitter dispute between North and South Korea.
Ms. Yokota, at age 13, disappeared from Niigata in November 1977 while on her way home from school. North Korea’s explanation about her fate was never consistent. During a summit meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in September 2002, North Korea said that Ms. Yokota married a North Korean man in 1986, gave birth to a daughter in 1987 but killed herself in March 1993 while being treated for depression. In November 2004, however, it told a Japanese government delegation that she died in April 1994.
At that time, a man who called himself Kim Chol Jun presented himself to the delegation as the widower of Ms. Yokota. But North Korea refused to let him photographed or allow his DNA sample to be taken on the grounds that he worked for a “special-purpose organization” of the country. The delegation brought back from Pyongyang to Tokyo what North Korea said was Ms. Yokota’s ashes. But DNA analysis proved that the ashes were not Ms. Yokota’s. It is clear that North Korea lacks sincerity. The past development and the latest DNA analysis results deepen the suspicion that North Korea is holding back important information about the fate of Ms. Yokota.
Mr. Kim Young Nam, at age 16, went missing in August 1978 after he went swimming with a friend at a beach on an island in the southern part of South Korea. In 1997, a South Korean intelligence agency announced that he had been kidnapped by North Korean agents. North Korea must now at least make clear whether “Mr. Kim Chol Jun” and Mr. Kim Young Nam are the same person.
During his September 2002 summit with Mr. Koizumi, Mr. Kim Jong Il apologized for abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents. In another summit with Mr. Koizumi, in May 2004, the North Korean leader promised to carry out a “reinvestigation in earnest” into the abduction issue. North Korea should withdraw its position that the abduction issue has been solved. It is its duty to disclose the circumstances of all abductions of Japanese and their treatment in North Korea, as well as to restore the abductees to their original homes and families.
The South Korean government acknowledges that a total of 485 South Koreans were kidnapped by North Korean agents, most of them crew members taken from fishing boats. Responding to the latest DNA analysis findings, the South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry said that it will “take measures related to the matter in consideration of the nation’s basic duty and the will of families of the victims.” It would be logical for Japan and South Korea to jointly push North Korea to release all abduction victims and give a full explanation of the entire abduction scheme. A North and South Korea ministerial meeting to start in Pyongyang on April 21 should offer a chance for South Korea to take up the abduction issue.
The United Nations General Assembly in December 2005 adopted a resolution expressing a “serious concern” over the human-rights situation in North Korea, including the abduction issue. Mrs. Sakie Yokota, the mother of Ms. Megumi Yokota, is scheduled to speak in the U.S. House of Representatives in late April. Wide international cooperation is called for to solve the issue.
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