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Abducted: The Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea

Abductions Issue the 'Most Critical Challenge' Says New Chief Cabinet Secretary at Tokyo Symposium

At the event, abductee Megumi Yokota's brother Takuya Yokota called the North Korean abductions issue "a battle for lives that we cannot afford to lose."



Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi, who is also Minister in charge of the Abductions Issue, calls for solidarity at the symposium. December 16, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. (©Kyodo)

On December 16, the Japanese government organized a symposium marking North Korean Human Rights Awareness Week in Tokyo. It focused on the ongoing issue of North Korea's abductions of Japanese citizens. 

At the symposium, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi, who is also Minister in charge of the Abductions Issue, called for solidarity. "Citizens must stand united and demonstrate a strong resolve to realize the repatriation of the victims," he said.

He continued, "The abduction issue stands as the most critical challenge for the [Fumio] Kishida administration. It is a humanitarian concern that brooks no delay, as the issue comes with time constraints." 

Takuya Yokota (center), the representative of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea (AFVKN), responds to questions after the symposium on December 16, in Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. (©Kyodo)

A Battle for Lives

Also taking the stage was Takuya Yokota, the brother of Megumi Yokota, who was abducted at 13 and is now 59. Takuya is the current representative of the Association of Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea (AFVKN). 

He urged, "Now is the time for Japan's political and diplomatic strength to be put to the test. Political stagnation is not an option. This is a battle for lives that we cannot afford to lose under any circumstances."

Furthermore, a video conceptualized by three students was shown at the symposium to raise awareness among the younger generations. The students had participated in the inaugural Abduction Issue Summit for middle school students in August. In the video, two children are playing catch, when one of them suddenly disappears. The video is available on the YouTube channel of the Headquarters for the Abduction Issue.

Leadership Transition and Impact

With his attendance at the symposium, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hayashi's role as the abduction issue minister began in earnest. His diplomatic skills, honed from his experience as foreign minister, will be put to the test. 

For one, Kishida has been intensifying efforts to realize a meeting with Kim Jong Un, Secretary General of the Workers' Party of Korea. Paving the way for such talks will be a considerable challenge for Hayashi. 

Before the symposium, Hayashi engaged in a roundtable discussion to raise awareness of the abduction issue. There, he encouraged 10 university students, saying, "The abduction issue isn't a relic of the past. Even now, victims are deprived of their freedom and face harsh conditions. It's crucial to raise awareness with the help of the younger generation."


Hayashi assumed the abductions portfolio on December 14. He replaced former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, who was implicated in a financial scandal involving members of the Abe faction. The change has had a significant impact on the Kishida administration. 

Matsuno had established a trustful relationship with the families of abduction victims through frequent meetings. He also played a substantial role in urging North Korea to engage in high-level talks.

In Hayashi's case, his connections with influential individuals in the United States and South Korea from his previous role as foreign minister could prove useful. With time ticking away for the families of abductees, Hayashi will need to leverage his strengths to address the administration's most critical issue.


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: Shingo Nagahara

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