Crime & Justice

Mother of Japanese girl abducted by North Korea calls on Tokyo to act

Tokyo, Sep 16 (EFE).- The mother of a Japanese girl abducted by North Korea in 1977 has called on the government to take action, in the lead up to the 20th anniversary of a historic summit between Tokyo and Pyongyang that enabled the return of some abductees.

“I am frustrated as the Japanese government is inactive and not trying to save them,” Sakie Yokota, 86, said in an interview with Japan’s Kyodo news agency published Friday, the eve of the anniversary of the first-ever summit between the two countries.

Megumi Yokota was abducted at age 13 on her way home from school in coastal Niigata 45 years ago, and her family has fought for her return ever since.

She was one of 17 Japanese people Tokyo says were abducted by North Korea to teach culture and language in spy training programs in the 1970s and 1980s.

In 2002, on the occasion of the Pyongyang summit, North Korea returned five Japanese citizens, but said that eight died, including Megumi, and that four never even set foot on North Korean soil.

The North Korean regime sent Megumi’s “ashes” to Japan, but the DNA tests were negative, so her family believes that she is still alive, as is the case with other abductees, whose North Korean death certificates present many irregularities.

The kidnapping of these citizens is the main obstacle between Tokyo and Pyongyang, which do not maintain diplomatic relations.

Sakie spoke of the recovery efforts made by her husband, Shigeru Yokota, who led a group of abductees’ families and who died in June 2020 aged 87, without being able to bring their daughter back.

“He devoted everything to Megumi. I have been praying, saying I will work hard too,” said Sakie, who hopes to remain in good health so that she can “welcome” Megumi – who would now be about 57 years old – home.

Kyodo said that in March 2014, Sakie and Shigeru met Kim Eun-gyong, who was born to Megumi and Kim Young-nam, a South Korean also abducted by North Korea, as well as Kim Eun-gyong’s daughter in Mongolia.

“My great-grandchild looked very much like Megumi when she was little and I could not put my feelings into words. The meeting was a joy to my husband, and I am grateful it was held,” Sakie said.

Megumi’s case has always been considered the most symbolic, both because of her young age when she was taken by boat to the neighboring country, and because of her family’s tireless struggle to bring her back.

In addition to arranging a summit, Sakie wants the Japanese government to select a team for negotiations with North Korea.

“Even when the presidents vow help, nothing will move forward unless the Japanese government acts,” Sakie said. EFE


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