Families renew resolve to realize abductees’ return from North Korea

Jiji Press
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at a gathering calling for the return of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea, on Saturday in Tokyo.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Family members of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea decades ago on Saturday called for cooperation to resolve the issue, stressing that they can never give up on their goal of bringing home their loved ones.

A gathering calling for the immediate return of the abductees was held in Tokyo with the attendance of about 800 people, including family members of the abductees, their supporters, local assembly members, prefectural governors and lawmakers. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida also took part.

Efforts to rescue the abductees have been hampered by the fallout from the novel coronavirus pandemic, said Shigeo Iizuka, 83, head of an association of families of abduction victims and brother of abductee Yaeko Taguchi.

“But we can never give up” on our goal of resolving the issue, Iizuka said.

“We want to work with all related parties as one to accelerate efforts” to realize the early return of the abductees, Iizuka added.

Iizuka urged the Japanese government to draw up a concrete plan and make efforts to rescue the abductees.

“The prime minister and the minister in charge of the abduction issue have changed frequently,” Iizuka said. “Every time a new person took office, we asked them to work on the matter but their efforts have yet to bear fruit,” he went on to say.

Considering the aging of abductees’ family members, “We have no time to waste,” Kishida said at the gathering.

“The abduction issue is one of the most important challenges for the Kishida administration and I strongly think that I must resolve the issue myself,” Kishida added.

The prime minister stressed that it is important for Japan and North Korea to build a relationship between their leaders.

“I’m resolved to face North Korean leader Kim Jong Un unconditionally,” Kishida said.

Sakie Yokota, the 85-year-old mother of Megumi Yokota, who was kidnapped by the reclusive nation at the age of 13, shared a story from a former North Korean agent that Megumi was trapped in the hold of a ship and that she kept scratching the wall while crying out for help.

“How cruel that is,” Sakie said.

“It’s very regrettable that I was able to raise [Megumi] only for 13 years,” she said in a shaky voice.

At the rally, resolutions, including one calling on both the Japanese government and North Korea to realize the return home of all victims all at once, were adopted.