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Abductees to Remain in Japan

Five people taken by North Korea decades ago hope families they left there can join them.

October 25, 2002|From Associated Press

OBAMA, Japan — The drama of the Japanese abducted to North Korea took a new turn Thursday with the announcement that the five who are visiting Japan will stay indefinitely and hope that their families can join them.

The announcement by Japan intensified the tug of war between Tokyo and its Communist neighbor. It threatened to add diplomatic complications to an extraordinary human tragedy that has left the abductees torn between the families they left in Japan decades ago and the families they formed in exile.

The five left children in North Korea while they revisit their homeland this month, and they were to have returned within two weeks. Their visit hit a snag, however, when their families in Japan began pressuring the government to keep them here. The families also demanded that Tokyo press North Korea to let the abductees' children join them permanently in Japan.

Together, the abductees have seven children -- all in their teens or 20s -- in North Korea.

Calling the return of all family members to Japan "indispensable and urgent," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said the Japanese government would work to settle them here.

"The five abductees will stay in Japan," Fukuda said. "We will strongly urge North Korea to ensure the safety of families remaining in North Korea and their early return."

When the governments meet next week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for talks on establishing diplomatic relations, Fukuda said, Tokyo will ask North Korea to set a date for the abductees' families to come to Japan.

Family members were ecstatic. "The dream I have hoped for over the last 24 years has finally come true," said Tamotsu Chimura, whose son Yasushi was kidnapped in 1978.

Yuko Hamamoto, whose sister Fukie was seized with Chimura and later married him in North Korea, praised the government's decision.

The five are the only known survivors of 13 Japanese whom North Korea acknowledges abducting in the 1970s and 1980s.

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