EXPLAINER: Why were Japanese abducted by North Korea?

U.S. President Joe Biden has met with families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea decades ago to show his support for their efforts to win the return of their loved ones

Via AP news wire
Monday 23 May 2022 14:23
North Korea Biden Asia Japan Abductions
North Korea Biden Asia Japan Abductions

U.S. President Joe Biden met Monday with families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea decades ago to show his support for their efforts to win the return of their loved ones.

The families said Biden talked to each of them and listened to their stories, encouraging them as their hopes were fading because of North Korea's escalating missile sand nuclear development.

WHO ARE THE JAPANESE ABDUCTED BY NORTH KOREA?

Japan says North Korea abducted at least 17 Japanese citizens, possibly many more, during the 1970s and 1980s. Twelve remain missing.

They include school children and others living along Japan's coast. Many were bundled into small boats and taken across the sea to North Korea.

WHY WERE THEY ABUDUCTED?

North Korea apparently wanted them to train spies in Japanese language and culture, or to steal their identities so agents could masquerade as Japanese for espionage aimed mainly at South Korea.

After admitting in 2002 that it had abducted 13 Japanese, North Korea apologized and allowed five to return homer. It said eight others had died and denied that the other four entered its territory. It has promised a reinvestigation, but has never announced the results.

Japan says North Korea has refused to send the others home because of concern that they might reveal inconvenient information about the country.

HOW WAS BIDEN'S MEETING WITH THE FAMILIES?

Koichiro Iizuka, 45, whose mother was abducted in 1978 and was raised by his uncle, said he was “grateful that President Biden sincerely listened to each of our stories" and promised his support.

Sakie Yokota, 86, whose 13-year-old daughter, Megumi, was abducted in 1977 from Japan's northern coast on her way home from school, said Biden kneeled down to listen to her and told her that as a parent who has lost two children he understands her pain. “That really cheered me up,” said Yokota, whose husband died two years ago. “I asked the president for his support so that all of us can have our loved ones back."

Her son, Takuya Yokota, who heads the group of abductees' families, said Biden's show of solidarity gave courage to the families and also highlighted North Korea's human rights violations.

WHERE DOES THE ISSUE STAND?

Japan's government has made the issue a political priority and has demanded that North Korea immediately return all the remaining abductees. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said he is willing to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without preconditions, but there has been no progress.

Many elderly relatives say they’re running out of time to see their loved ones.

Japan and North Korea have no diplomatic ties, and efforts to resolve the issue have largely stalled for nearly a decade due to the North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and Japan's imposition of sanctions in response.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in