Suspect in 1980 N. Korea Abduction Reportedly Dead; Victim Was Lured from Osaka with Promise of Job

REUTERS File Photo
A North Korean flag flutters at the propaganda village of Gijungdong in North Korea, on July 19, 2022.

One of two men suspected of abducting a Japanese citizen in a 1980 case linked to North Korea has reportedly died, it has been learned.

South Korean citizen Kim Kil Uk was a suspect in the abduction of then 43-year-old Tadaaki Hara of Osaka in June 1980.

From the National Police Agency website
Kim Kil Uk

According to sources close to the government, South Korean authorities have informed the Japanese police of the death of Kim, who had been on an international wanted list for Hara’s abduction. Kim reportedly died in his 90s in South Korea several years ago.

Japanese law enforcement authorities requested South Korean authorities to provide documentary evidence for Japan.

Eleven people, including North Korean spies, are on the Interpol wanted list for abducting Japanese citizens in cases linked to North Korea. This is the first time that information on the death of one of the suspects has come up, highlighting the fact that not only the abductees and their families but also the suspects have gotten so old that there is little time left to save the abductees and uncover what really happened.

According to the sources, the Japanese authorities were notified about a year ago that Kim, who would have been 95 had he lived, had died several years earlier in South Korea.

The Metropolitan Police Department’s Public Security Bureau obtained an arrest warrant for Kim in 2006 on suspicion of kidnapping for transportation of out of a country and other charges and placed him on the international wanted list.

The Japanese police have taken investigative cooperation procedures to request that the South Korean side provide Kim’s death certificate and other documentary evidence. The police plan to send papers to prosecutors on the dead suspect once the death has been confirmed.

In June 1980, Kim and Shin Kwang Soo, a North Korean spy, now 94, conspired to abduct Hara, who worked at a Chinese restaurant in Osaka at the time. They allegedly told Hara they would offer him a job in a trading company and took him to Miyazaki City. Then they are believed to have gotten him onto a boat on the Aoshima coast of the city and abducted him to North Korea.

After that, Shin disguised himself as Hara and illegally obtained a Japanese passport. The abduction was apparently for the purpose of stealing a Japanese identity for espionage operations.

Kim was arrested in 1985 in South Korea and was sentenced to prison for 15 years for espionage in 1986. He completed his sentence and was released from prison. Since his conviction, as finalized in South Korea, included the abduction of Hara, negotiations to secure Kim’s extradition did not go well, partly because the South Korean side wanted to avoid duplicative punishment of one of its citizens.

Seventeen people, aged from 13 to 52 at the time of their abduction, are officially recognized by the government as having been abducted by North Korea, for such purposes as stealing Japanese citizen’s identities and teaching the Japanese language to North Korean spies. In 2002, North Korea admitted that it had abducted Japanese citizens and apologized for doing so. While five abductees returned to Japan, Pyongyang claims that the remaining 12 Japanese citizens either never entered North Korea or have since died, so they have not been able to return home.