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Abducted: The Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea

EDITORIAL | Failure to Bring Home North Korea Abductees a 'National Shame'

Only two parents of victims abducted by North Korea are still alive. With no signs of a breakthrough, the family association is forced to make a compromise.



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Takuya Yokota (center), representative of the Families of the Abductees, and Tsutomu Nishioka, head of the National Association to Rescue Victims Kidnapped by North Korea, hand their associations' new position paper to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. (On March 1. © Sankei byYasuhiro Yajima)

Who is to blame for the anguish of the families of victims abducted by North Korea?

It goes without saying that North Korea is the instigator of this tragedy. The authoritarian state ordered the abductions of ordinary Japanese citizens and continues to reject any attempt to resolve the situation.

But the anger of the victims' families is also directed at the Japanese government. As time passes by cruelly, its negotiations have yielded no breakthroughs. The Japanese government must acknowledge this fact in solemn reflection.

North Korea
(From left) Sakie Yokota, Tetsuya Yokota, and Takuya Yokota, representatives of the Families of Victims Abducted by North Korea, hold a press conference after a joint meeting between the Families' and the support organization on February 26. In Tokyo. (© Sankei by Yoshinori Saito)

A Desperate Decision

The Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea (AFVKN) and the National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea (NARKN) have decided on a campaign strategy for 2023. 

The organizations are calling on the Japanese government to bring back all of the abductees immediately "while their parents are still alive."

Crucially, they also stated that they "will not oppose humanitarian assistance to North Korea" if Pyongyang returns all of the abductees to Japan. This is the first time the associations' official position has included such a statement.

Their position can be seen as a shift from seeking a comprehensive solution to the North Korea issue, which includes halting its nuclear and missile development, to focusing solely on resolving the abductions.

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Keiko Arimoto's father, Akihiro, is still working to bring his daughter home.
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Megumi Yokota's mother Sakie is still fighting for her daughter's return.

There is No Time Left

One of the reasons for this is the age of the abductees' parents. Of the 17 victims officially recognized by the Japanese government, the parents of only two of them are still alive. One is Megumi Yokota's mother, Sakie Yokota, who is 87. The other is Keiko Arimoto's father, Akihiro Arimoto, who is 94. Their partners, who fought alongside them to rescue their daughters, have died. Both surviving parents struggle with health problems.

Megumi's younger brother Takuya is a representative of the family association. "I feel an acute sense of urgency that we have no time left," he explains. 


For decades the family association has actively pressed to reunite the abductees with their parents. It is only natural that they feel more anxious with each passing year.

On February 26, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida addressed the abduction issue at the Liberal Democratic Party congress. "The abduction issue is a top priority," he stated, "and there is not a moment to waste. We will continue to do our utmost to address the issue without missing any opportunities."

However, his words were a repetition of his previous statements, and no zeal could be felt in them.

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Sakie Yokota holds a press conference on September 6, ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Japan-North Korea summit meeting. (Kawasaki, near Tokyo. Pool photo)

Heart-Rending Cries of a Mother

Sakie Yokota once wrote the following in the "Letters to Megumi" series published by the Sankei Shimbun and JAPAN Forward.

More than 40 years have passed since you and others were abducted by North Korean agents. I am constantly worried that the cruel atrocities would fade away from people’s memories and that the solution to the abduction issue will become further and further from our reach.

If this inaction continues, Japan will not be able to vindicate itself of its national shame, leaving the problem unsolved for the next generation.

The Family Association has announced it will not oppose humanitarian aid to North Korea under certain conditions. The Japanese government needs to take this statement as a cry of anguish from the victims' families. 

Now, it is up to the Japanese government to show its determination — not just with words but also with action — to bring the abductees home at any cost.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun


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