(This letter is part of an ongoing series of letters written by Sakie Yokota to her daughter Megumi. To read other parts of the series and related articles, please click here.)
North Korea abducted Megumi Yokota when she was just 13 years old. Her parents, Shigeru (86) and Sakie (82), have continued their prayers and appeal for the immediate return of their daughter and all abduction victims, although their anxiety grows with each passing day.
Meanwhile, at the United States-North Korea summit held in late February, President Donald Trump raised the abduction issue directly with Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of North Korea. Megumi’s parents are now calling on Japanese citizens to continue their support for the full and complete resolution of the issue while pinning their hopes on the Japanese and North Korean leaders for earnest discussions of the abduction issue.
The days pass by in a whirlwind, and spring has arrived in the blink of an eye. It seems like only yesterday that we were welcoming the New Year. Although your father and I vowed to rescue and bring you and all of the victims home, we are sometimes overcome with fear as we see how fast time moves on.
Just recently, U.S. President Trump and the Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, held a summit meeting. After the summit, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe received a report from President Trump and met us to discuss the future prospects for rescue of the victims.
At the summit, President Trump directly confronted North Korea on the issue of denuclearization and pressed its leader to release the abductees. Afterward, Prime Minister Abe reiterated his determination to face Kim directly and demand the return of abduction victims.
We have no way of knowing how Japan and North Korea are negotiating — or what goes on under the surface, as I have heard many say. However, I feel that the heavy door looming before us has started to budge at last, and a future where Japan and North Korea can have earnest discussions towards peace for both countries is finally in view.
The North Korean abductions are not merely an “issue” — they are an unprecedented international crime. If this outrageous state crime is not dealt with conclusively, it will bring great shame on Japan. It is only after all of the abduction victims are returned that North Korea can work towards becoming a country with a bright, prosperous, and happy future.
I believe in Prime Minister Abe’s determination, and continue to pray that, one day, all of you will come home to walk on the soil of your motherland.
Fill Our Home with Peace and Laughter Again
Japan is gripped by numerous domestic and foreign issues, including the abductions by North Korea and natural disasters that never seem to cease.
March 11 this year marked eight years since the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, a disaster that snatched away many lives. We earnestly pray for the survivors who have worked diligently towards recovery and for the light of hope and healing for all those who grieve.
We want to see Japan overcome these difficulties so that future generations can inherit a strong country with a bright future.
I turned 83 last month, but my birthday was just a somber reminder that another year had passed. We are simply an ordinary Japanese family. My heart tightens with grief when I look back at our lives 41 years ago, when all of us, Megumi-chan and your brothers Takuya and Tetsuya, lived so happily.
If you had not been abducted, your father and I would be spending the last years of our life in peace. Instead, each day has been a living hell since you disappeared on November 15, 1977.
Your father feels the same way, though he is currently recuperating in the hospital because he wants to be healthy when you return. His rehabilitation and treatment have been successful, and he is getting better and more alert every day. I am filled with gratitude for all the support we have received whenever I see his beaming smile.
At the same time, his returning health has made him more aware of the heavy reality of your continued absence, and I often find him deep in thought. When I read the newspaper to him, he constantly asks me for more details.
I recently brought your father home with permission from the hospital, expecting that it would bring happiness and encourage him in his recovery. Instead, I was surprised to see him look over the apartment with a stern expression.
That is when I realized that our home wasn’t a place of comfort anymore. Since your abduction, it had turned into a battlefield.
In 1997, when it became clear that you were being held in North Korea, we established the Association of Families of Victims (AFVKN). That was the beginning of many restless nights.
The phone rang ceaselessly, and we received countless faxes and letters. Crowds of reporters came to interview us. It seemed I was going crazy while trying to rescue you.
As a family, we had countless discussions on how to rescue you because we sensed your life was in danger. There was an intense debate when your abduction was first reported by the press using your real name, but we forced ourselves to put our fears aside and pushed on.
This is why it seemed as though your father was overcome by sobering memories of the past when he came home.
For a long time, the truth of your abduction wasn’t known. It was like you were all buried in the dark and forgotten. We did everything to find traces of you for the first 20 years after your abduction. Not knowing why you disappeared was a heart-wrenching agony.
When we finally found out that you were being held in North Korea, others still argued for a long time that your abduction was a mere “allegation.” The family’s appeal was not taken seriously.
However, in 2002, North Korea finally acknowledged the abductions and apologized. Five abductees managed to come home: Mr. Hasuike and his wife, Mr. Chimura and his wife, and Ms. Hitomi Soga. Although it was a breakthrough, North Korea did not return all abducted victims. They claimed, and still claim today, that you and the other abductees were either dead or never entered North Korea.
Our fight to rescue you has been a tumultuous journey with violent waves of joy, sadness, and anger. Many miracles had to happen for us to come this far.
I’m certain that a miracle will happen again, as long as people persistently speak out with our family. I’m certain that one day, all of the abduction victims will come home, and there will be laughter and tears of joy. At the end, though, only the government and politicians have the power to make this a reality.
You will come back one day, and our home will once again be filled with peace. Until then, your father and I will continue to pray for the happiness of all as we wait for your return.
(Click here to read the Letter to Megumi in its original Japanese.)
Author: Sakie Yokota