Japan confirmed a new prime minister in early September 2020 without having achieved any progress in bringing home Megumi Yokota and the other Japanese abducted by North Korean agents. Megumi was abducted more than 40 years ago, when she was 13. Her father, after giving his all to the struggle to gain his daughter’s return, passed away in June 2020.
Her mother, Sakie, has now met with the new prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, and the new minister for abductions, and is confident in their intention to take action to bring home the children who have been robbed of their ordinary lives in Japan. She continues to write letters to her daughter, the latest of which is below. With the other families, she will continue to do whatever she can to help bring home the children.
How are you? The intense summer heat has finally subsided, and it is beginning to feel like fall. Having endured for 43 years, it is now September 2020. I am calling for a solution to the abduction issue with all my might, while also feeling weary, sad, and angry about not knowing when the abductees will be able to return home to Japan.
Right now, huge political change is happening in Japan. Shinzo Abe, who made solving the abduction problem a top priority and major issue, has resigned as prime minister. The man who was his Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who has been working on the abduction issue, has become the new leader of Japan.
So far, I have kept faith through all of Japan’s political administrations that the government would rescue the abductees from North Korea. That sentiment has not changed since Mr. Suga’s appointment as prime minister. The decisive factors in bringing the victims of these ruthless state crimes back to Japan are unwavering political resolve and an ability to take action.
September is a month that has been engraved in the memories of both your late father and mine. At the Japan-North Korea summit meeting on September 17, 2002, North Korea finally admitted that the abductions took place and apologized. It emerged that the Hasuikes, the Chimuras, and Hitomi Soga were still alive. However, North Korea claimed that you and many other abductees were dead.
In 1997, 20 years after you disappeared from Niigata in 1977, we learned that you were still alive and living in North Korea. At that point, the abductees’ relatives and supporters across Japan finally felt as though the ordeal was coming to an end. Yet, we were later thrown into a dark hell with the apparent news that you and some other abductees had died.
But then another twist. We subsequently discovered that the evidence and explanations concerning the abductee deaths were fake. North Korea sent us your “remains,” but they were confirmed as being the remains of a completely different person. As North Korea’s contradictions became exposed, I could sense that you were alive and breathing, and I was able to keep fighting.
The cruelty of the abductions causes free time to creep by very slowly, because we cannot see or hear the victims. Those of us who are waiting essentially feel half-dead on a daily basis. However, you and other abductees are suffering an even worse life in North Korea, waiting to be rescued.
Is there anything in this world that is more cruel? These abduction cases are quite simply a matter of life and death.
To the People of Japan
People of Japan: Please think about the abducted children once more, and demand that they be rescued.
Politicians and bureaucrats: Put your political differences aside, engage in discussion, think hard, and do your best to get the abductees back home.
Japan should come together as one, and eradicate the “national shame” of the abductions of Japanese citizens in Japan as quickly as possible. I hope that this will lead to a brighter future, not just for Japan but for the entire world as well.
Moving Ahead to Bring You Home
This year, the summer has been overwhelmingly hot. As an 84-year-old elderly woman, I often worry that I might collapse. But, at the same time, I am longing to meet you.
As the years go by, one has to face up to old age and illness. Nowadays, even eating can be painful. I guess these experiences make one realize that one is alive.
Your father, who passed away in June, is smiling in one of the photographs on the altar at home. “Good morning, father. Let’s try our best,” I say every morning while praying.
Father went to heaven peacefully after a noble fight. But when I think of him in that hospital room, desperately trying to keep the flame of life burning in order to see you again, I sense a profound loneliness.
The world has been hit so hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Right now, diplomatic activity, including diplomatic efforts on the abduction issue, feel somewhat hollow, and there is a growing sense of impatience.
The coronavirus has made it difficult to collect signatures in towns and cities, and to hold gatherings where people can get together — to continue to place pressure on the campaign to rescue the abductees.
However, the fact that we are going through the depths of such a major crisis suggests that there should be bright possibilities on the horizon.
Prime Minister Suga has vowed to spare no effort in trying to solve the abduction issue. Meanwhile, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, who has been reappointed as the minister in charge of the abduction issue, has said, “We must seize every opportunity in order to get the abductees back home as soon as possible.” I strongly believe that their statements will lead to action.
I also pray that Japan’s former leader Shinzo Abe will recover from illness and again campaign robustly alongside us, the relatives of the abductees.
An extremely long period of time has passed since the abductions. You and other victims and all the family members here in Japan are getting old, and for some there isn’t much time left. For us, getting a concrete result is everything.
How can we achieve a good result? I’ve asked many people this question both inside and outside Japan. I’ve even spoken to politicians about this at the Diet.
To make progress, we need determined action and the support of many. But to start with, Japan needs to stand as one in order to clear the high hurdles that lie in the way.
Which is why I want young people who are unaware of the abduction cases to know about what happened and to help boost the drive toward reaching a solution.
Several decades ago, North Korean agents entered Japan. They abducted a number of young Japanese people, and took them back to North Korea. Japanese people outside Japan were abducted as well. Most have never returned home.
Why did these cruel atrocities happen? Can it be guaranteed that incidents this tragic will never occur again? Unless we focus on the root of the problem and solve everything, we cannot pass on the future to our children with peace of mind.
Megumi dear, I feel helpless as your mother, but I think about you every day and I’m living with you in spirit. Your father is smiling and watching out for us. Stay strong, and wait for us to rescue you.
I have faith that you will return home one day, with a big smile on your face, just like the ones you had when you were a child.
(Click here to read the letter as it was first published in Japanese.)
You can find other articles in English on North Korea’s abduction of Japanese citizens here.
Author: Sakie Yokota