North Korean abductions of Japanese

North Korean abductions of Japanese

The North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens from Japan by agents of the North Korean government happened during a period of six years from 1977 to 1983. Although only sixteen (8 men and 8 women) are officially recognized by the Japanese government, there may have been as many as 70 to 80 Japanese abducted.cite web|url=|author="Asian Political News" (Kyodo)|accessdaymonth=1 May | accessyear=2006|title=N. Korean defector says 70-80 Japanese abducted by North] The North Korean government has officially admitted kidnapping thirteen citizens.cite web|url=|accessdate=2006-05-01|title=North Korea rejects DNA link to Megumi Yokota abduction case|author=Associated Press] A possible seventeenth case, that of Kyoko Matsumoto, has been under evaluation for official recognition since November 2006. Although no new evidence has been put forward recently, in December 2006 the Japanese National Police stressed they had not forgotten the case and hope to transmit that same message to the Japanese people. [ "New York Times", Asia/Pacific Section, December 16, 2006] ]

Most of the missing were in their 20s, although the youngest, Megumi Yokota, was 13 when she disappeared in November 1977 from the Japanese west coast city of Niigata. The North Korean government claims that she committed suicide on 13 March 1994.cite web|url=|accessdate=2006-04-30|title=Abduction of Japanese Citizens by North Korea|author=Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Japan)]

It is believed that the victims were abducted to teach the Japanese language and culture at North Korean spy schools.cite web|url=,2763,812524,00.html|title= North Korea's kidnap victims return home after 25 years|last=McCurry|first=Justin|accessdate=2006-05-01] Older victims were also abducted to obtain their identities, but these abductees are believed to have been killed immediately.Fact|date=February 2007 It is also speculated that Japanese women were abducted to become wives to a group of North Korea-based Japanese terrorists after a 1970 Japan Airlines hijacking, and that some may have been abducted because they happened to witness North Korean agents in Japan, which may explain Yokota's kidnapping. Why North Koreans Were Kidnappers]

For a long time, these abductions were denied by North Korea and were often considered a conspiracy theory. Despite pressure by Japanese parent groups, the Japanese government itself took no action because the now-defunct Socialist Party of Japan, which had maintained close ties with North Korea, vehemently denied the abductions.Fact|date=February 2007 There are also claims that this issue is now being used by Japanese nationalists, including former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to "further militarization", push for revision of the Constitution in order to allow Japan to have an army, revise the Basic Education Law and forward other political goals.cite web|url=|title=Abduction issue used by Japanese nationalists|author=Norimitsu Onishi ("International Herald Tribune")|accessdate=2006-12-18] cite web|url=|title=Ideological laundry unfurled|author=Gregory Clark ("Japan Times")|accessdate=2006-11-21] However, such claims have been criticized by Kyoko Nakayama, Tokyo Special adviser to the Japanese prime minister on abduction, that "This is about rescuing our citizens (from ongoing abduction)... They deserve all possible support to regain their freedom and dignity. It is our duty to retrieve them" (see Norimitsu Onishi).

Talks between North Korea and Japan in 2002 and aftermath

On 17 September 2002, Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi visited North Korea to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. To facilitate normalization of relations with Japan, Kim admitted abducting 13 Japanese citizens and issued an oral apology. He attributed the kidnappings to "some people who wanted to show their heroism and adventurism", and avoided taking the blame.

North Korea also provided death certificates for eight people who the North claimed were dead, but later admitted that they were forgeries in a conference in November, 2004.

Return of five victims

Later, North Korea allowed the five victims that it said were alive to return to Japan, on the condition that they return later to the North. The victims returned to Japan on October 15, 2002.

However, the Japanese government, listening to the pleas of the general public and the abductee' families, told the North that the victims would not be returning. North Korea claimed that this was a violation of the agreement and refused to continue further talks.

The five victims returned were Yasushi Chimura, his wife Fukie, Kaoru Hasuike, his wife Yukiko and Hitomi Soga.

Children/spouses of returned victims reunited

The three children of the Chimura family and the two children of the Hasuike family, who were born in North Korea, were allowed to rejoin their parents in Japan following the second visit of Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi to Pyongyang on May 22, 2004.

Hitomi Soga was able to reunite with her husband and children, but through a more circuitous route. Her husband, Charles Robert Jenkins, was a defector from the United States Army who fled to North Korea where he eventually met and married Soga. Fearing a court-martial, Mr. Jenkins and their two daughters initially met Soga in Jakarta, Indonesia, on July 9, 2004, eventually returning together to Japan on July 18. Two months later, on September 11, 2004, Jenkins reported to the army base in Camp Zama, Japan, served a light sentence after being found guilty of desertion and aiding the enemy, and was discharged dishonorably from the army. The family currently lives on the Sado Island of Japan.

Further evidence and investigations

In November, 2004, North Korea returned two human remains, stating that they were Megumi Yokota and Kaoru Matsuki, who the North claimed died after being abducted. Subsequent Japanese DNA testing determined that these remains belonged to neither of the two. However, the independent scientific journal "Nature" published an article highly critical of this testing, which was performed at Teikyo University by Yoshii Tomio, a relatively junior faculty member (lecturer) in a forensics department without a professor. Yoshii later admitted that he had no previous experience in the analysis of cremated specimens. This mistake — intentional or not — further strained relations between Japan and North Korea and is discussed in more detail in the article on Megumi Yokota.

In an interview with Japanese police, Yasushi Chimura and Kaoru Hasuike, two of the abductees allowed to return to Japan in 2004, identified two of their abductors as Sin Gwang-su (known also as Sin Kwang-su) and a man known as "Pak". The National Police Agency has requested the arrests of Shin Kwang Su and Choi Sung Chol for the kidnapping of Japanese nationals. Shin reportedly told police in South Korea that he had been personally ordered by Kim Jong-il to carry out abductions.]

In March, 2006, Osaka police raided six facilities, including the North Korean Chamber of Commerce, in an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the June, 1980, disappearance of one of the alleged abductees, Tadaaki Hara. All six facilities were linked to Chongryon, a pro-Pyongyang Korean residents' organisation in Japan. A police spokesman said that the head of Chongryon at the time was suspected of co-operating in his kidnap. [ [] ]

Current situation

The North Korean government continues to claim that there were only 13 abductees and that the issue has been resolved with the return of the five victims. However, the Japanese government claims that the issue has not been properly resolved, and that all evidence provided by the North is forged.

By May, 2004, five abductee victims and their families (ten in total) have returned from North Korea. However, there are still a number of alleged victims who are missing.

Although then Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda commented on 24 December, 2004, that "unless honest measures are taken swiftly, we cannot help but impose strict measures", hinting at possible sanctions, such moves have not yet been taken by the Japanese government.cite web|url=|title=Prospectus|author=National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea|accessdate=2006-05-01]

The victims' support group has also looked to the United Nations for help. United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, in a speech given in the Japanese Diet on February 24, 2004, mentioned the issue, sympathized with the victims and their families, and expressed wishes for a complete settlement [ [ アナン国連事務総長の訪日] (Japanese), The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan] .

Later that year, the United States Congress passed the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004] . In response to this, the South Korean ruling party, not wanting to damage North-South relations, expressed concern.Fact|date=February 2007 On the other hand, the victims' families and their supporters expressed gratitude towards the United States government and president [ [ the National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea] ] .

In 2004, the Japanese Diet passed two laws designed to restrict trade with North Korea "Bill to bar ships from ports goes to Diet"] .

On November 2, 2005, the United Kingdom led 45 countries, including the European Union, the United States and Japan, in submitting a proposal condemning North Korea to the United Nations. On December 16, this proposal was passed by the General Assembly with 88 support, 21 against and 60 abstention votes. In particular, China and Russia were against this proposal and the South Korean government abstained. The proposal condemned North Korea for "systematic humanitarian violations", and mentioned the abduction issue, the existence of concentration camps and the forced return of North Korean refugees to the homeland [ [ 北朝鮮人権非難決議、国連総会で初採択…拉致など指摘] ,Yomiuri Shinbun , 2005.12.17.] .

A working group dealing with human rights abuses has also been set up at the six-party talks.Fact|date=February 2007

United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed support for the abduction issue,cite web|url=|title=Visit to Japan by U.S. Secretary of State Rice|accessdate=2006-05-01|author=Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Japan)] .

On April 27, 2006, Sakie Yokota, mother of abductee Megumi Yokota, testified in a United States House of Representatives subcommittee about the abduction issue. The next day, Yokota met with US President George W. Bush to ask for the United States' help in resolving the abduction issue. The President called the meeting "one of the most moving meetings" in his presidency and questioned North Korea's actionscite web|url=|title=Bush meets family of Japanese woman abducted by North Korea|last=Iwama|first=Toshimitsu|accessdate=2006-04-30] .

On June 13, 2006, the North Korean Human Rights Bill, calling for sanctions to be placed on North Korea, was tabled in the Japanese Dietcite web|url=|title=N Korea to face Japan sanctions|accessdate=2006-06-13|author=BBC News Online] .

Victims officially recognized by the Japanese government

Sixteen nationals are officially recognized by the Japanese government as victims of the abduction issue. The sixteenth, Minoru Tanaka, was added to the list on 27 April, 2005, following discovery of evidence supporting the assertion that he was abducted. [ 外務省: 北朝鮮による日本人拉致問題 ] ]

Other abductions by North Korea

North Korea has also perpetrated abductions in South Korea, which has the highest number of citizens abducted by the North. The number of South Korean abductees is put at 486cite web|url=|title= Body snatching, North Korean style|accessdate=2006-04-30|last=Lankov|first=Andrei] or 485.cite web|url=|first=Yuichiro|title= S. Korea reacts to abductions|accessdate=2006-04-30|last=Nakamura] .

In December 1969, a Korean Air YS-11 was hijacked by a North Korean agent soon after taking off from Gangneungcite web|url=|accessdate=2006-04-30|title=North Korea:Chronology of Provocations, 1950 - 2003|first=Dick K.|last=Nanto] . The pilot was forced to fly to and land in North Korea. The passenger, crew and aircraft have yet to be returned. North Korea claims that this was an act of asylum by the pilot, but it is considered to be another case of abduction.

In the 1970s, many women were abducted from Lebanon and in July 1977 there was an attempt to kidnap a Korean pianist/actress and her spouse from Yugoslavia. There were also incidents in which South Korean high school students were kidnapped.

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights has begun investigations on the Korean abductees. Abductee Hitomi Soga has also testified that citizens of Romania and Thailand were among the abducteescite web|url=|accessdate=2006-04-30|title=Abductees' multinational kin unite|last=Takahara|first=Kanako] . The family of an abduction victim from Thailand has been identified and the Japanese government is working with the Thai government to resolve the issue.


There is also controversy about whether the remains of Megumi Yokota returned by North Korea to Japan are hers or not. The Japanese government tested them and claims they are not.Fact|date=April 2007 But in February 2005, the British scientific journal "Nature" published an article in which Teikyo University DNA analyst who did the tests, Yoshii Tomio, admitted the result could be inconclusive. Likewise, the technique used is reportedly no longer used professionally in the United States due to the ease with which contamination can occur. According to the Japanese Foreign Ministry, the remains are not available for further testingcite web|url=,13673,501050404-1042508,00.html|title=Bones of Contention|accessdate=2006-10-27|author="Time" Magazine] .


ee also

*North Korean abductions of South Koreans
*Japanese people in North Korea
*Kim Hyon Hui

External links

* [ Headquarters for the Abduction Issue, Government of Japan] , requesting information to resolve the issue
* [ The abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korea] , Prime Minister of Japan and his Cabinet - Symbolic
* [ North Korean Abduction Victims Worldwide] , National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea
* [ Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea]
* [ Noel Paul Stookey: Song for Megumi]
* [ THINK (Their Home Isn't North Korea)]
* [ "Abduction - The Megumi Yokota Story"] (film about the most famous abduction case)
* [ President George W. Bush meets with North Korean Defectors and Family Members of Japanese Abducted by North Korea] Office of the Press Secretary, April 28, 2006, White House

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