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Abducted: The Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea

EDITORIAL | Pressuring North Korea to Resolve Abductions Has International Support

Japan must channel this international momentum. North Korea will not budge unless Japan makes a concerted effort to resolve the abductions problem.



A UN symposium on the issue of abductions by North Korea was held online. Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno is third from the left on the evening of June 29. (©Kyodo)

In the United Nations, an online symposium was recently held on the issue of North Korea's abductions of Japanese and citizens of other countries. It was aimed at finding a resolution to the issue. 

Japan, Australia, South Korea, and the European Union jointly hosted the symposium. This was the first time since 2018 that South Korea had cohosted the event. (Watch the symposium on the UN channel in English.)

This marks a return under current South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol to how things used to be. He emphasizes collaboration with Japan and the United States, whereas his predecessor Moon Jae In actively promoted a policy of reconciliation with North Korea.

Leaders attending the May G7 Summit also gave their full support for resolving the abductions issue. We might hope that establishing an increasingly tightening international diplomatic encirclement of the Pyongyang regime would lead to the immediate return of all abductees. But ultimately it is up to Japan to press for a solution at a summit meeting with North Korea.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno (left) and family members of the abductees, Takuya Yokota and Koichiro Iizuka make keynote speeches. June 29, 2023. (© Sankei by Yoshinori Saito)

Sincere Comments of the Participants

At the symposium, Takuya Yokota pleaded for closure. He is the younger brother of abductee Megumi Yokota and the representative of the Association of Families of Abductees. He said, "If the parents who are waiting for their abducted children are not reunited while they are still alive and well, it cannot be called a solution."

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, who has the Cabinet portfolio for the abduction issue, also commented. He said, "It is extremely important for Japan to take the initiative to solve the problem and build top-level ties [with North Korean leaders.]."

He also emphasized, "We must not waste a moment as the time has come for us to boldly change the status quo."

North Korea
Sakie Yokota holds a press conference on September 6, 2022. It is also ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Japan-North Korea summit meeting. (Kawasaki, near Tokyo. Pool photo)

A Mother's Plea

That is certainly true, but we must doubt whether the government and the Diet have shown real enthusiasm for finally solving the abduction question.

On June 4, The Sankei Shimbun published a "Letter to Megumi." In it, her mother Sakie Yokota wrote the following: "The Diet does not seem to discuss the abduction issue much. 

"Why can't we find a solution? What steps could we take? Why can't they debate specific strategies? North Korea must be observing our politicians and bureaucrats closely."

Increasing joint international pressure for resolution and a summit meeting must be rooted in the anger of the Japanese people. Moreover, it is the responsibility of the political branch to channel this anger.

Government of Japan cover of pamphlet describing the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea.

North Korea Can't Hide the Victims Forever

Prior to the symposium a researcher affiliated with the foreign ministry of North Korea published an article in which he wrote, "Thanks to our good-faith efforts, the matter has already been completely resolved."

The same researcher even contemptuously dismissed the demand that the abductees be returned home. He wrote, "That's nothing more than a vain delusion akin to wanting to bring the dead back to life."

It was only natural that Matsuno should characterize this stance as "totally unacceptable." But doesn't such a response also show a lack of remorse on the Japanese side for too long neglecting the abductee issue? 

North Korea will not budge unless Japan makes a concerted effort to resolve the problem.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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