Japanese woman abducted by North Korea an icon, but husband forgotten

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More than 35 years after her kidnapping, Ms Yokota has become a symbol of Japan’s all-out effort to bring back at least a dozen of its citizens believed to be held by the North.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has reopened dialogue with North Korea and offered to ease sanctions in return for answers on the abductees, in what he has made a signature issue of his term in office. The two sides held talks in Beijing on Tuesday.

Kim Young-nam's sister Kim Young-ja.

Kim Young-nam’s sister Kim Young-ja. Photo: Reuters

Mr Kim, one of more than 500 South Korean civilians thought to have been abducted and held in the North, is all but forgotten.

“Prime Minister Abe … obviously pushed for much more, and it begs the question: what is our government doing for those 500 people?” his sister, Kim Young-ja, 56, said on Wednesday.

“It is so hard for us. There is nothing we can do, the victims, nothing,” she said.

Ms Yokota is one of 13 Japanese that North Korea admitted in 2002 had been kidnapped in the 1970s and ’80s to help train spies. Five of them returned to Japan and Pyongyang has said that eight are dead, including Ms Yokota.

Japan has identified 17 citizens it says were abducted. It also wants better proof of the fate of the eight said to be dead, along with other missing persons who may also have been kidnapped.

Mr Abe has made the plight of the Japanese citizens taken by North Korea a personal crusade, but the South Korean government has been reluctant to push Pyongyang on the topic.

Many of the South Korean abductees were part of programs to help train spies on culture and dialect, according to North Korean defectors who have spoken of taking part in it.

Critics say the South Korean government had stigmatised families of the abductees, painting them as sympathisers of the North.

Many of the families of the missing are poor or working class from rural areas with little means to plead their case, some of the families have said.

“In Japan the government comes looking for you when you’re an abductee’s family,” Choi Sung-yong, who heads the Abductees’ Family Union based in Seoul, said.

“We don’t expect our government to come to us, but over here it’s practically impossible for a victim’s family to see a government official,” he said, referring to the stigma attached to those who were abducted.

There is no immediate plan to reapproach North Korea on the issue of its nationals abducted in the wake of renewed talks between the North and Japan, said an official at the Unification Ministry, which handles ties with Pyongyang.

The two Koreas are technically still at war more than six decades after a truce suspended fighting in the 1950-53 Korean War.

Kim Young-nam, who would be 52 now, went missing as a 16-year-old. He was assumed to have drowned. The family reported him as likely deceased.

It came as a shock when two South Korean intelligence agents approached his sister in the early 1990s with news that he was alive and living in North Korea.

“We thought he was dead,” his sister Kim Young-ja said. “We were scared. We had never thought for a minute he would be alive in North Korea.”

In 2006 Mr Kim was reunited for three days with his mother and sister during a reunion event just north of the militarised border.There he told his relatives that he had married Ms Yokota in 1986 and that she died in 1994 after the last of repeated suicide attempts, suffering from depression and schizophrenia, discrediting any suggestion that she was alive.

He said he had a daughter with her and had subsequently remarried, to a North Korean woman.

Mr Kim said at the time that he had drifted to the North inadvertently after falling asleep in a row boat and was rescued, a claim that is widely rejected in the South as a story he is forced to tell and implausible given the distance of more than 200 kilometres.

In March Ms Yokota’s parents met the woman born to their daughter and Mr Kim, spending several days with the 28-year-old granddaughter, Kim Eun-gyong, in Ulan Bator, the Mongolian capital.

But hope is fading that Ms Kim and her brother will be reunited again.


Source Article from http://www.smh.com.au/world/japanese-woman-abducted-by-north-korea-an-icon-but-husband-forgotten-20140704-zsug7.html
Japanese woman abducted by North Korea an icon, but husband forgotten
Japanese Class – Yahoo News Search Results
Japanese Class – Yahoo News Search Results

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