TOKYO – Family members of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s on Wednesday urged Fumio Kishida, the new president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party who is set to become the next prime minister, to work hard for the swift repatriation of the victims.
With little progress on the abductions, the need to resolve the issue has become more urgent in recent years as the victims’ family members are aging.
“I’m not sure how many prime ministers came and went, but nothing has changed,” Sakie Yokota, the 85-year-old mother of an abductee, told reporters in Kawasaki near Tokyo. Her husband died at the age of 87 last year without seeing their daughter again.
Their daughter Megumi was abducted on her way home from school in Niigata, a city on the Sea of Japan coast north of Tokyo, at the age of 13 in 1977.
“It’s really now or never. I want (the prime minister) to realize a Japan-North Korea summit,” she said, adding the parents of the victims are thinking every day of their children and their hardships.
Shigeo Iizuka, 83, who heads a group of the victims’ families, also expressed hope for the return of the abductees including his sister Yaeko Taguchi.
“I would like (the prime minister) to clearly express his determination and say, ‘I will solve the abduction issue with my own hands,'” Iizuka said. “I want him to show us a concrete plan and take action.”
In Kobe, western Japan, Akihiro Arimoto, 93, whose daughter Keiko was taken to North Korea at age 23, was pessimistic after he watched the LDP presidential runoff on Wednesday, in which former Foreign Minister Kishida beat vaccination minister Taro Kono.
“The government has left the issue unresolved (for decades), and Keiko will be old when she comes back. I think the situation will not change regardless of whoever is the (LDP) president,” he said.
Japan officially lists 17 nationals as having been abducted by North Korea but suspects its involvement in many more disappearances.
While five were repatriated in 2002, Japan continues to seek the return of the remaining 12. Of the 12, Pyongyang claims that eight, including Megumi Yokota, have died and four others never entered the country.
Among the five allowed to return home, Yasushi Chimura and his wife Fukie, both 66, released a statement Wednesday through the local government of Obama in Fukui Prefecture, central Japan.
“Abduction victims and their family members are aging and there is not much time left for them. I truly hope the issue for sure will be completely resolved in our time,” they said.