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5 Japanese Abducted by N. Korea to Visit Homeland

Asia: Victims' children will not be allowed on two-week trip. The survivors are among 13 kidnapped more than two decades ago.


TOKYO — North Korea will permit five Japanese kidnapped more than two decades ago to visit their homeland next week, although their children born in the Communist nation will not be allowed to accompany them, Japanese officials said Wednesday.

North Korea has said the five victims, whose trips will be paid for by the Japanese government, can stay only two weeks.

The announcement came as Japanese and North Korean officials prepare for talks Oct. 29 and 30 in Malaysia aimed at establishing diplomatic ties between their countries.

The five kidnapping victims are the only ones alive among the 13 Japanese whom North Korea last month admitted abducting in the 1970s and '80s. The survivors include two couples who married and had children after they were brought to North Korea. Hitomi Soga, who married U.S. defector Charles Robert Jenkins in North Korea, also will return.

The five victims have a total of six children.

North Korea maintains that the other kidnapping victims died in incidents ranging from suicide to traffic accidents. Their families have said they doubt the reports.

In a summit last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il admitted that his nation kidnapped the Japanese to steal their identities and force them to train spies in their language.

Though relatives have demanded that the five survivors be allowed to remain in Japan, the victims told Japanese diplomats in North Korea last week that they were uncertain about returning home permanently because their children don't speak Japanese and aren't familiar with their parents' birthplace.

The victims' families fear that the survivors might refrain from speaking freely while in Japan because their children remain in North Korea.

"They should come back with the entire family. Leaving behind the kids--my grandchildren--is like leaving behind hostages," Tamotsu Chimura, whose son Yasushi was kidnapped in 1978 at age 23, told a news conference.

The relatives balked at traveling to North Korea because they feared that the kidnapping victims would not be able to speak freely.


Takashi Yokota of The Times' Tokyo Bureau contributed to this report.

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