Sakie Yokota expresses frustration over lack of progress on abduction issue

Pool photo / The Yomiuri Shimbun
Sakie Yokota talks during a press conference in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Tuesday.

Sakie Yokota, the mother of Megumi Yokota, who was abducted by North Korea when she was 13 years old, expressed frustration Tuesday over the lack of progress in resolving the issue.

“Why can’t we help them [the abductees]?” asked Sakie, 86, during a press conference in the city of Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, where she lives. “I feel more frustrated and angry than I can express.”

The press conference was held ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 2002 Japan-North Korea summit, during which Pyongyang admitted to the abduction of Megumi and other Japanese citizens.

North Korea claimed at the summit meeting, held on Sept. 17, 2002, that eight abductees were dead. Among the deceased, it said, was Megumi, who was kidnapped in November 1977.

The five people whom Pyongyang said were alive returned to Japan the following October.

“We’d been waiting and working hard [to realize the abductees’ return], so even though we were told that they’re dead, we can’t just say, ‘I see,’” Sakie said. “Even now, I still think that [what North Korea said] is absolutely not true.”

Sakie asked the government to do its utmost to solve the abduction issue. “We have to get them back and let them step on Japanese soil. I hope the government will take action to make this happen,” she said.

There has been no noticeable progress toward the return of Megumi and the other victims, and their families are aging. The only parents of abductees who are still alive are Sakie and Akihiro Arimoto, 94, the father of Keiko Arimoto, who was abducted when she was 23.

“We’ve been waiting with hope, but it is truly cruel and empty that there are only two of us left,” Sakie said.

This November will mark 45 years since Megumi was abducted. “It’s a hellish pain to keep waiting. I have to hang on as long as my body can hold out,” she said.