Families of Japanese Abductees Call for Return of Loved Ones from North Korea

TOKYO – The Association of Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea supports Japan’s humanitarian aid and lifting of sanctions on Pyongyang, but demands the safe return of all abducted Japanese nationals while their parents are still alive.

“We have recently decided on a new policy for our campaign. We will not oppose Japan providing humanitarian assistance and lifting its own sanctions if all abductees return home together while their parents’ generation is still alive,” declared Takuya Yokota, representative of the group, during a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ) on April 5.

Yokota shared the anguish experienced by families like his, whose loved ones were taken by North Korean agents. His sister, Megumi, disappeared at the age of 13 while returning home from junior high school in Niigata City in 1977.

“My older sister, Megumi, was a bright and cheerful sister. If I were to compare her to a color, it would be yellow or orange,” he recounted to the media.

The North Korean government claimed she had committed suicide and presented what it said were her remains in 2004. However, a DNA test conducted by the Japanese government disproved this claim.

“I wonder if my sister had not been abducted, how fulfilling a life she might have lived, making contributions to society, and how many happy moments she could have spent bringing her children to meet her parents or their grandparents,” Yokota lamented.

Japan and North Korea held their first summit meeting in September 2002, resulting in the return of five abductees who were reunited with their families.

“My own father also dreamt of reuniting with Megumi and fought vocally on the front line toward that. However, he passed away in June 2020. When I think about his despair and sadness, my heart breaks,” Yokota shared.

“My mother, who is also awaiting the chance to meet Megumi again, is now 88 years old.

“Our association was founded in 1977, and the members of this parents’ generation who have continued to raise their voices on the front line over these years are now only two, the father of Keiko Arimoto, and also my own mother, Sakie. We don’t have any time left,” he added.

Last March, Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, released statements through the state-run media Korean Central News Agency asserting that the issue of abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea has already been resolved, and that a summit meeting with Japan “is not a matter of concern” for North Korea.

“The DPRK side will pay no attention to and reject any contact and negotiations with the Japanese side,” she stated.

In response, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi labeled this stance as “totally unacceptable.”

Japan has officially identified 17 individuals as victims of abduction by North Korea during the 1970s and 1980s. While five have returned home, the remaining 12 abductees have not yet come back. - Florenda Corpuz