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Abducted: The Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea

First English Podcast on Japanese Citizens Abducted by North Korea: All Four Episodes Available Now

Our new podcast series reveals the stories of Japanese citizens who were ripped away from their families by North Korea. Most are still waiting to return home.



Sakie Yokota on May 8, 2018 with a picture of her daughter Megumi, who was abducted by North Korean agents.

In April, JAPAN Forward launched a new four-episode podcast series titled "Abducted — Four Stories, Four Lives." The podcast shares the stories of Japanese citizens who were abducted by agents of North Korea. It is the first-ever English podcast series dedicated to this issue. 

An old photo of the Yokota family.

The Disappearance of a 13-Year-Old Girl

The first episode tells the story of Megumi Yokota, who was abducted 47 years ago at the age of 13. She was kidnapped near the coast of Niigata while walking home from her middle school badminton club. Her mysterious disappearance was later revealed to be a kidnapping orchestrated by North Korea. 

The words of Megumi's younger brother Takuya and friends vividly portray the anguish, conflicts, and anger her family has endured. Even now, they continue to fight for her return. Takuya currently serves as the representative of the families' association working for the return of the victims.

Yukiko and Kaoru Hasuike (shown from far left) with other returning abductees immediately upon their return to Japan on October 15, 2002. They join the families of victims still in North Korea, including Shigeru and Sakie Yokota (front row, from right). (©Sankei by Kenji Suzuki)

The second episode features Kaoru Hasuike, who was abducted with his girlfriend Yukiko (now his wife) while walking along the Niigata coastline. North Korea acquiesced and returned him to Japan after 24 years in 2002. Kaoru describes the terrifying life in North Korea and his complex psychological state while forced to teach Japanese to North Korean operatives.

The third episode features Masami Abe, a former journalist with The Sankei Shimbun, who first exposed the abductions issue. Abe shares his research process and the frustration and helplessness he felt when the issue was ignored for many years.

Forced to Teach Terrorists

The fourth and final episode reveals the abductees' plight in North Korea. Yaeko Taguchi was cruelly snatched away from Japan, leaving behind her two children were only one and two and a half years old. In North Korea, she was forced to teach Japanese to the perpetrators of the 1987 Korean Air Flight 858 bombing. Her son, Koichiro Iizuka, shares his story after learning about his mother from the perpetrators.

Takuya Yokota and Koichiro Iizuka respond to questions in a press conference after the UN symposium. Evening of June 29, 2023, in Tokyo. (© Sankei by Reina Kikkawa)

Each episode is 20 to 25 minutes long and available on JAPAN Forward's website or Apple Podcasts, accessible on desktops and smartphones. I hope the podcast reaches English speakers as well as young Japanese people.

Up to 800 Abduction Victims

JAPAN Forward reporters Arielle Busetto and Agnes Tandler visited Niigata to interview families and those affected, working as investigative journalists to unravel the truth of these mysterious crimes. 

Busetto explained her motivation: "We needed to inform the world that these mysterious disappearances were actually crimes committed by North Korea. The world also needs to know that in addition to the 17 officially recognized by the Japanese government, North Korea may have abducted up to 800 ordinary Japanese citizens."

In this harsh world, safety and happiness can be destroyed in an instant, as seen with the abductees, and similarly with Ukraine today. Tandler warns, "Right now the abductions might look like a problem from the distant past. But from here, they look increasingly like a problem that will also mark the future."

Until They All Come Home

JAPAN Forward also publishes English translations of letters written by Megumi's mother, Sakie Yokota, in a series called "Letters to Megumi." Additionally, we offer reports and analyses by various experts and contributors, along with essays on North Korean human rights and the abductions issue by Japanese middle and high school students. These have been cited by English media such as the BBC.

There have been reports of Japanese and North Korean officials working behind the scenes toward a summit. The families of the abduction victims have one wish: to meet their loved ones again before they die. By sharing the truth with the world, JAPAN Forward is committed to supporting efforts to bring the abduction victims home to Japan.

Sakie with her daughter, Megumi Yokota.

Watch for the next issue on July 15.

JAPAN Forward entered its eighth year in June. Join us as we continue to share the true face of Japan with the world. For inquiries, please call 0570-033-433 (Sankei iD) or email us at info@japan-forward.com.


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: Yasuo Naito, Editor in Chief, JAPAN Forward