My Dear Megumi,
I look up at the sky, refreshingly clear and high. I have survived the harsh summer and feel the presence of autumn. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread throughout the world, I am reminded of the importance of the bonds between us.
You turned 57 on October 5, but I can’t even imagine what the little 13-year-old girl would look like now. I am also an old lady, having turned 85 years old. Time is ticking away, but the flame of my life continues to burn, praying and hoping that we will live to embrace each other.
Each autumn brings to my mind the image of the five abductees stepping off the stairs of the airplane arriving at Haneda Airport from North Korea onto the soil of their homeland.
That was on October 15, 2002. Mr. Kaoru Hasuike and his wife Yukiko, Mr. Yasushi Chimura and his wife Fukie, and Ms. Hitomi Soga returned to us after they had been abducted by North Korea ー like you.
During our rescue campaign, we held up the photos of the abduction victims and shouted on the streets, “Please help us!” The victims who looked so young and happy in the photos came back on that October day old, thin, and exhausted. Even so, I was overjoyed to see them come home.
After they left the airplane, your father and I and Principal Yoshiei Baba of Niigata Elementary School, where you were a student, kept staring at the airplane stairs.
“Maybe Megumi will come running from the plane with a smile,” we imagined. But you never appeared. And for the following 19 years, time has stood still.
The time left to us is so short — the abductees and their families have grown old, and many of us are sick.
Waiting So Long
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.
Neglect? Indifference? Why is there inaction?
Why is such an important issue not being addressed? I have tried to think of many reasons, but in the end, the only way to resolve this is for Japan as a nation to devote all of its energy and resources to reclaiming its children.
If this inaction continues, Japan will not be able to vindicate itself of its national shame, leaving the problem unsolved for the next generation. We, as the generation of parents of the abduction victims, must bring closure to the national crime once and for all.
It is my sincere desire that I will live to see all of our children step on the soil of their homeland.
As ordinary citizens, we may be able to raise our voices and appeal for help rescuing you. But we do not have the power to directly bring you and other victims back to Japan. Now is the time for our accomplished politicians and bureaucrats to demonstrate their strength.
Help of the People
Above all in this difficult time, we won’t be able to press ahead without support from the people. Therefore, I would like to ask the Japanese people from the bottom of my heart: please turn your thoughts to the abduction victims in your daily lives and voice your concerns for them.
On September 17, 2002, North Korea admitted to the abductions and apologized at the first-ever Japan-North Korea summit meeting. But then, without presenting any evidence, they told us that you and the others had died.
It was a cruel and crushing moment for all of us whose children were abducted. We had formed a family association in 1997 and had since fought together hand in hand.
Japan is now in the process of deciding on a new political leader to lead the country. Will the victims and their families ever embrace each other while they are still alive and well?
Will the new leader be prepared to take charge of the situation? I am tormented by anxiety and impatience, but I still cling onto hope each time, praying that “this time will be different.”
I ask the next leader of Japan: now is the time to look back at the abductions and think of a way to truly resolve the problem.
I am well aware that North Korea is a formidable opponent that cannot be dealt with by ordinary means. But at the end of the day, we must implore the Supreme Leader of North Korea to make the decision to return all the abduction victims. We must make him understand from the bottom of his heart that this is the very way to lead the world to peace.
I have met with every new prime minister of Japan to make repeated appeals for an immediate solution. Your father, representing the family association, stood at the forefront of the rescue movement and traveled around the country and the world. Even when he became ill and was hospitalized, he desperately clung to the last flame of his life on his sickbed, hoping that he could one day embrace you again.
Many family members of the abductees including your father, and many of our supporters, passed away without being able to fulfill their wish. Their hope has been entrusted to us, and as mothers and parents, we cannot fail until it is realized.
Push for a Solution
Soon, an important election will be held in Japan.
I ask the politicians to please think of our children who are waiting for our help in the darkness of a distant foreign country.
Please hold serious discussions about the abductions ー regardless of party affiliation ー because this is a life-or-death issue. Use all your ingenuity to move forward towards a solution as soon as possible.
I hope that the new leader will confront the fact that there is very little time left, and take concrete steps. The abduction issue has entered a critical moment.
I ask the people of Japan to consider the abductions as their own personal issue. Please look at the way politicians are confronting the issue with a critical eye, and push for a solution.
19 years ago on September 17, after the revelation of your abduction and believing that you were still alive, I said, “Come home soon” to the photo of you at home.
My wish did not come true, and it has been an unimaginably long struggle. But the day will surely come when I can smile and embrace you as you come down the airplane stairs.
Dear Megumi, please wait a little longer. I will continue to fight with every last ounce of my strength.
(Read Sakie Yokota’s Letter to Megumi in Japanese, here.)
Learn more about the issue here, and from the following reports:
- The International Search for a Path to Bring Home the Abductees
- What If It Was Me? A Fresh Look at Ways to Resolve the Abductions, Reach Out to North Korea
- Thousands Taken: Kidnappings by North Korea’s Kim Dynasty Continue for Half a Century
- [Bookmark] Megumi Yokota Film Premiere A Push for the Return of North Korean Abduction Victims
Author: Sakie Yokota