The Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea and the National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea held a joint meeting in Tokyo on February 19. At the meeting they adopted a new policy for their movement, calling for the government to prioritize the situation of Japanese abductees in North Korea and to secure their release by the end of this year. They are seeking a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to seek clarification of a specific road map to a solution.
This is the first time that the group has requested an ultimatum, but as the victims and their family members are aging they feel that time is of the essence. They also suggested easing sanctions in exchange for return of all victims, and called on the government to prioritize genuine consultations. They strongly maintained that no part of the sanctions be removed until all the victims are returned together.
They also pointed out the importance of strengthening the alliance with the United States against North Korea’s nuclear and guided missile tests. They acknowledged that the leaders of Japan and the United States had confirmed the importance of an early resolution of the abduction problem.
The group also sought increased pressure on the General Association of Korean Residents and other North Korean affiliated groups. For the first time, they called for cancellation of registration of North Korea-affiliated universities and schools.
The Family Association representative Shigeo Iizuka (78), who is elder brother of Yaeko Taguchi (61, abducted at 22), emphasized that the victims and their families had gone beyond what they could bear and were determined that this must be the final year.
“Some family members are dying and there is no more time for waiting,” said the Family Association representative Shigeo Iizuka with a solemn expression. He also announced that Mr. and Mrs. Yokota were no longer able to attend.
Shigeru (84) and Sakie (81) Yokota were not in attendance at the conference. They are the parents of Megumi Yokota who was abducted at 13 (she would now be 52). Shigeru is increasingly immobile and hard of speech while Sakie’s condition is also deteriorating. Their absence was keenly felt.
Sakie sent greetings to the conference and said that she much regretted their absence, reiterating her belief that all the abduction victims would be returned. They felt the approach of age and their coming departure, but said that they would continue to appeal with all their strength so that when they pass away they would do so without regret. She hoped for the support of the Japanese people in expressing their anger.
The movement made its demand for an ultimatum clear in order to get the victims back in any way possible. Tsutomu Nishioka, head of the National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea, said that there was a limit to the activities that could be undertaken led by the families, saying that the Japanese people must come together and help their fellow citizens return from North Korea.
As Shigeo Iizuka said, the problem is that considerable time has passed since the initial abductions—forty years have passed since Megumi’s abduction and twenty since the Family Association was formed. Prime Minister Abe promised that the abduction issue would be dealt with as a most pressing problem and that all efforts would be made to find a resolution. The families hope that he hears the urgency of the problem anew and can create a specific roadmap towards a solution.
Masashi Nakamura is a staff writer for Sankei Shimbun