Abduction by North Korea: How the victims were chosen and kidnapped
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HOW IT ALL HAPPENED -- Stories behind each of the cases --
[by Editor-in-Chief, THINK. Tokyo, October 24, 2003. 1st revision: February 10, 2004]

A year has passed since Kim Jong-Il admitted the abduction of 13 Japanese nationals in 1970s and 80s. On October 15, 2002, 5 survivors returned to their families for the first time in a quarter of a century. It is true that some progress was finally seen, yet much more still remains to be solved. We need to retrieve the families (7 children and 1 spouse) of the returnees. We need to know what exactly happened to the 8 that North Korea claims to be dead. We need to know the whereabouts of as many as over 100 missing persons who are suspected of being kidnapped. We can never accept the Stalinist country's claim that the abduction issue is over with its leader's apology. We want to know the whole truth.

Since Fall 2002, the English media have increased their coverage on the abduction issue. Yet there are so many facts that are still not transmitted in the English language. We at THINK have compiled information from various Japanese printed and broadcast materials to give the English readers a look into the untold stories.

[2nd revision: July 11, 2004]
As a result of the second Summit Meeting in Pyongyang on May 22, 2004, the Hasuikes and the Chimuras were able to retrieve their 5 children. And on July 9, 2004, Ms. Hitomi Soga was finally reunited with her American husband Charles Robert Jenkins and their daughters Mika and Belinda in Jakarta. At the Pyongyang meeting, Kim Jong-Il told Prime Minister Koizumi that he will order a re-investigation of 10 other victims that he himself had acclaimed claimed dead only 19 months ago.

Kim Jong-Il is desparate to normalize ties between Japan and North Korea, as his nation is starving and he feels threatened by the United States which has called his country one of the Axis of Evil. He seems to think that by returning the 5 victims and their 8 family members and by delivering a "new & revised" death reports, he can bring an end to the abduction issue, please Japan and pave the way to his safety. This is also evident by the fact that he is letting go of the surviving Yodo-go hi-jackers (see below for details on the relationship between Yodo-go and the abductions).

We cannot let this happen. Normalizing the ties now means giving up the lives of many Japanese abducted by the evil country between 1950 and 2000. We know from testimonies by defected North Korean spies that Megumi Yokota, Rumiko Masumoto, Keiko Arimoto and many other victims are still alive in Pyongyang. We cannot give up our fight until we retrieve every one of the victims.

[3rd revision: December 11, 2004]
So the Dear Leader has ordered his men to re-investigate the cases. And his team has handed 7 shipping containers of "evidence" to Japanese government officials on November 15, 2004. But what did the cargo contain? Lies, lies, lies! What the North claimed to be remains of Megumi Yokota turned out to be of complete strangers after a thorough DNA test. The SECOND set of ashes (the first set they sent out in 2002 were also fake) NK returned saying they were of Kaoru Matsuki were of 4 deceased, none of whom were Kaoru .

There are more lies. NK admitted that the last set of death certificates they supplied in 2002 were _made up_ in a hurry since they could not find the originals. The pictures of Megumi in her 20's they handed last month turned out to be composites. The officials let Japanese representatives meet Megumi's "husband" but did not give requested hair samples because a DNA test can prove him being a dummy. Latest testimonies by survivors indicated that: 1) Rumiko Masumoto and Yaeko Taguchi were single after when NK says they each got married, 2) Yaeko was seen alive even after the date of death supplied by NK, 3) Yaeko said she taught Japanese to a NK spy called "Okka" whose name coincides with that of KAL bomber, though NK denies the connection, and more.

Despite this inhumanity and mockery, PM Koizumi of Japan is still hoping for some "sincerity" to come out of NK. It's about time he showed some anger towards NK; it's no time for "dialogue". He says he will continue to communicate with the Stalinist nation, but is that really effective? We've had enough. We must stop expecting any truth to come out from NK. Time has come for him to apply "pressure" to the liar's country.

Yodogo hi-jackers kidnapped Japanese from Europe for Kim Jong-Il
Kaoru Matsuki was studying languages in Spain and Toru Ishioka was visiting Europe to pursue his studies of dairy production when they were suggested a casual trip to Eastern Europe by Japanese women they had just met. Keiko Arimoto had been studying English in London and was offered upon finishing her course a "market-research" job that would involve trips around the world. Kaoru and Toru left Madrid in 1980 and Keiko took off from London in 1983, and never returned. The hi-jackers of Yodogo who had defected earlier to NK snatched the 2 men to enlarge its membership using their wives as lures. One of the wives also abducted Keiko to marry one of the kidnapped men.

In 1988, Toru Ishioka's parents received a letter from their son. It was postmarked in Poland. The paper was folded very small, and seemed to have been written much earlier. There was a memo attatched that said: "Please send this letter to Japan. Our address is in this letter." Toru's message said that he, Keiko Arimoto and Kaoru Matsuki who the parents had never heard of before were living together in North Korea. 3 photographs, one each of Keiko and Toru and of a baby, were also in the envelope. Finding the contact addresses in the letter, Toru's parents got in touch with the Arimotos and the Matsukis and they, for the first time, realized that their children were involved together in a mysterious case. They believe that Toru, who was probably under constant NK supervision, secretly slipped the letter to a foreign tourist to inform his family that he was alive.

When the the Red Army Faction landed Japan Airlines' aircraft Yodgo in Pyongyang in 1970, their plan was to come back to Japan in 1/2 year. Their intention was to receive military training from the North Korean forces needed to revolutionalize their homeland. The young idealists had no vision of what they were headed for. Not only was theirs the very first hi-jack in Japan, but it was their first experience to go out of the country or even to fly for some of them. They hardly knew anything about the stalinist nation they were entering. They didn't even know whether if they'd be welcomed or not. The dictator didn't miss the opportunity. He treated the group well, fed them and supplied them with lodging and services. He brainwashed the hi-jackers and made them believe that they could pay back the Great Leader by revolutionalizing Japan into a country just like North Korea. He led the men to believe that, in order to realize the revolution, they needed more members in the group. After years of "education" and "training," he graciously allowed the Yodo-go members to marry Japanese women who were lured to NK for various reasons. Later, he let them take trips to Europe for "commercial activities," which in fact were intended for espionage and kidnapping. The hi-jackers had no choice. They'd be arrested once they enter Japan. Their children were kept in Pyongyang to prevent them from running away during their trips outside of NK. Most of them have never set foot officially on Japanese soil ever since 1970.
"Japanese hi-jackers go home after 32 years on the run" (The Guardian, September 9, 2002)

One of the ex-Yodogo wives testified at Tokyo District Court in 2002 that she kidnapped Keiko and apologized to her parents. The ex-wife, Megumi Yao, has written a few books, and appeared on TV last month to speak out. Yao was not a member of the Red Army. She was a member of an ideology study group in Japan. What did she study? -- The Juche, or the ideology of Self Reliance, advocated by none but Kim Jong-Il. She admits that she had been quite friendless and lonely when she heard of this group and joined it without much thought. She was later "selected" to study it first-hand in NK. She ended up as wife of a hi-jacker and a kidnapper.
"Hi-jacker admits abducting more women" (Mainichi Daily News, March 17, 2002)
Juche Idea Study Group of England

Each family had NO clue where their loved ones had gone
The families of the 3 lost couples (Kaoru Hasuike & Yukiko Okudo, Yasushi Chimura & Fukie Hamamoto, Shuichi Ichikawa & Rumiko Masumoto) were told by the police and other authorities in 1978 that they probably had problems and had run away. But Kaoru Hasuike left a university thesis he had written only half way on his desk. Yukiko Okudo had happily told a colleague at her workplace that she was going out with Kaoru that day. Carpenter Yasushi Chimura and Fukie Hamamoto were engaged to be married in a few months with blessings from both families. Rumiko Masumoto told her younger brother Teruaki as she left home that she was going to see the sunset with Shuichi Ichikawa. The film discovered in the camera left in Shuichi's car on the beach shows the two smiling happily. They just had no reason to disappear. Then one day in August1978 a couple barely escaped being kidnapped on a beach. The kidnappers left behind a few pieces of evidence including 2 rubber mouth-gags (which were so poor in quality that it could not possibly be made in Japan) and 2 body bags. They spoke poor Japanese. A newspaper reporter, Masami Abe, noticed that 3 other cases had happened in the same year on the same coast and wrote an article in the Sankei Shimbun newspaper in 1980 for the first time. No one paid much attention, though.

In 1987, 2 NK spies with fake Japanese passports blew up the Korean Air jetliner, killing 115 people. Kim Jong-Il allegedly ordered the bombing to discredit South Korea before it hosted the Seoul Olympics. One of the terrorists committed suicide, but the other, Kim Hyon Hui, later admitted that she was taught Japanese language and customs by a kidnapped Japanese woman. From the montage mugshot composed from Kim Hyon Hui's testimony, the woman was identified as pub hostess Yaeko Taguchi who had vanished in 1978. Yaeko's family had no idea why she had left 2 small children at a daycare and went to NK. They never imagined that she had been an abduction victim. They had to endure the public's accusation that they were related to a terrorist.

Megumi Yokota's parents were even more puzzled. Their daughter was only 13 when she disappeared only a few blocks away from her home in 1977. They had no information until one day a congress member secretary Tatsukichi Hyomoto called their home in 1997. He said that he'd read an article written by a TV director from Asahi Broadcasting, Kenji Ishidaka, who had interviewed an ex-NK spy. Ishidaka had heard that among the kidnap victims held in NK was a teenage girl. This was when Yokotas realized for the first time that their daughter was snatched by NK. Abe, Hyomoto and Ishidaka helped the families to unite to exchange information, and the Kazoku-kai (The National Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea) was born.

Some loners were also chosen
Yutaka Kume was picked because he had no family or relatives, no past arrest records nor debts, and could be stolen his identity easily. Tadaaki Hara was single and was lured by a fake job offer. A NK spy, Shin Gwang Su, took over Hara's identity and was later arrested in SK for spying (He was later pardoned but the Japanese government made no effort to investigate him).

The government or the congressmen were (and still are) no help to the victims and their families
The families of the victims had, of course, asked the police and other authorities to investigate the cases, but were abandoned at an early stage because of lack of evidence. It wasn't until 1997 that a congressman, Shingo Nishimura, took the case up in Congress. Congress members, especially those from the Socialist party, had visited NK many times in the 20 years, but made no effort to bring up the cases as they were, they claim, afraid to ruin the relationship between the 2 countries. The government has not ceased to give food to NK even after Nishimura's accusation or the abductee families' strong protest. Prime Minister Koizumi, though he can be praised for winning apology from Kim Jong-Il, did not include the resolution of the abduction issue in the Pyongyang Declaration, allowing NK to boast that "the abduction issue is already solved." The government is still allowing NK ship Man Gyong Bong to visit Japan, although it is well known to be used by the North-Korean Japanese association Chongryon to send money to their home country. The ship is also said to be used to smuggle NK-made narcotics to Japan.

The upcoming general election can be a kind of a litmus paper exam. The victim family association has asked the candidates to answer a questionnaire asking their opinion towards the issue, and is going to publicize the results before the vote day. Some congressmen are beginning to give help, and Mrs. Yokota recently said that the fact that these men and women of importance are willing to at least meet the families and listen is a progress. To think that it took them 25 years to get someone to lend an ear is so sad. (And that is also why they find the U.S. government and the U.N. so trustworthy -- they listened the first time the family visited to ask for help in 2002. Credit should be given for that for sure, but question also arises: "Where have YOU been all these years?" ). The fact that many congressmen belong both to the Ratchi Giren (Parliamentary League to Rescue Japanese Nationals Abducted by North Korea) AND the NK-Japan friendship association leaves not much room to feel totally secure. The families', and the public's for that matter, almost only hope is ex-deputy chief cabinet secretary Shinzo Abe as he seems to keep his hard-liner attitude even after becoming the ruling party secretary general.

"5 survivors and 8 victims" isn't the end of the story
In the summit meeting of 2002, NK admitted that there were 5 survivors, and said that 8 were dead. When asked for evidence of the deaths, a NK representative went somewhere to fetch the documents. When he returned in a few hours, he had papers that had date stamps in the exactly same spot, indicating that there is a technology similar to Xerox in North Korea. Also, the documents were all from the same hospital, although the 8 were supposed to have died in different parts of NK. Some of their birthdates were mixed up. NK returned an urn of remains, saying they were of Kaoru Matsuki, who had supposedly died at the age of 43. Japanese scientists later discovered that they were of an elderly woman. Kaoru was killed, NK said, in a car accident in a country where you hardly see any auto traffic. Shuichi Ichikawa drowned while swimming in the cold ocean in September when he hated water. Would a healthy young woman of 27 die of a heart attack, like NK says Rumiko Masumoto did? The cause of Keiko Arimoto's death, as they say, was carbon monoxide accident from a leaky heating system, when survivor Yukiko Hasuike confirms that the houses for Japanese abductees used no coal. And the graves of 6 of the 8 deceased were washed away by a flood, Pyongyang claims.

Returnee Hitomi Soga wasn't on the list of missing people that Japan had submitted to NK prior to the summit meeting. In other words, the government had not even known that she, let alone her mother Miyoshi whose whereabouts is still unknown, had been kidnapped. The media panicked as NK announced the list of 5 survivors which included her name, as they had no idea who she was. From this it can well be supposed that there are many more victims held still in NK who the government is not aware of. For example, a defected NK agent recently admitted that he'd seen a Japanese woman called "Kyoko" in one of NK facilities in 1994-97. From his description, she is most likely Kyoko Matsumoto who disappeared in 1977. The spy also said that he had met a Japanese language teacher called "Hiroshi Saito" 15 years ago. Another ex-agent, Ahn Myong Jin, who testified seeing Shuichi Ichikawa and Megumi Yokota in NK, said that he had met a woman in 1991 who is most likely Noriko Furukawa. Noriko had disappeared in 1973. Neither Kyoko, Hiroshi, nor Noriko is on the government's official list of abductees. On the list submitted by the Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea (COMJAN) are more than 360 missing cases that are not acknowledged by the government. The newest case happened as late as 1995.
"A rare glimpse into a bizarre abduction" (The Washington Post, October 5, 2002)
"An Abducted Daughter's Legacy? -- Japanese Family Learns of Possible Grandchild in N. Korea " (The Washington Post, October 4, 2002)

There remains so much to be solved. There are so many people that are awaiting rescue. Nothing is over yet.

Survivors suffer agonies still
Upon returning to the home country for the first time in 25 years, the 5 survivors mouthed only a few words. "I am happy to see everyone again." and "I apologize for any concerns caused by our absence." were all they managed to say. It was not only the shock and excitement that caused their silence. They were afraid that speaking up would anger North Korea and their family left there would be punished. Because the 5 obviously know things that he would not want the world to know, Kim Jong-Il kept their family as "hostage." The returnees first kept the red badge of loyalty on their lapels, but took it off after deciding to stay in Japan and wait patiently for NK to let the children and the spouse return. Little by little, they are becoming more open to the media, but are still being very careful not to mention anything that would irritate NK.

The Hasuikes and the Chimuras have 2 and 3 children respectively. The children held in NK do not know that they are Japanese. In order to survive in a country ruled by a dictator, the couples had to disguise themselves as Koreans. The parents are preparing for the future reunion (although they have no idea when that would happen) with worries about their children's adaptation to a totally new environment.

Hitomi Soga is married to an American and has 2 daughters. They know that Hitomi is a kidnap victim. The husband, ex-soldier Charles Robert Jenkins, is accused by the U.S. Government of defecting while serving in the Korean War, although concrete evidence cannot be found and there remains a chance that he may also have been abducted. He may face arrest if he enters Japan. She submitted a poem to the Mainichi daily upon her first homecoming anniversary. "If only I were a bird, I'd fly there to pick them up,'' she said.

Yukiko OKUDO
Yutaka KUME
Tadaaki HARA
Hitomi SOGA
Miyoshi SOGA

# Story compiled from "Kazoku" by The National Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea, "Dakkan" by Toru Hasuike, "Shukumei" by Koji Takazawa, and documentaries aired by NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation), NTV, Fuji TV, and TV Asahi.

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