The parents of a girl who has come to symbolize Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and '80s voiced frustration with the lack of progress on the issue Wednesday -- 40 years to the date since their daughter was kidnapped from her seaside town by agents of the isolated nation.
As they watched footage of the historic summit between leaders of the United States and North Korea on Tuesday, relatives of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea decades ago expressed hope that the landmark meeting in Singapore will lead to the return of their loved ones. "For us (relatives of abductees,) we are pleased that we have finally come this far," Sakie Yokota, 82, told reporters who gathered at a small meeting hall near her home in Kawasaki, hours after the end of the meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. "We wish for the Japan-North Korea relationship to recover soon, and sincerely hope that victims (of abductions) return in good shape," added Yokota, whose daughter, Megumi, was 13 years old when she was kidnapped in 1977 while on her way home from school in Niigata Prefecture. At a news conference after the meeting, Trump said he had discussed the abduction issue with Kim, although it was not included in a joint document signed by the two leaders. "I am not pessimistic … I knew things wouldn't be that easy," Yokota said, adding that she hopes Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet with Kim and discuss the abduction issue as soon as possible. Abe reiterated Tokyo's willingness to hold its own summit meeting with Kim to negotiate first-hand the return of abductees.
A memorial was held Saturday for Shigeru Yokota, a prominent figure due to his tireless campaigning for the return of his daughter, Megumi, and her compatriots who were abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga attended the central Tokyo ceremony and pledged to work toward a resolution of the issue, describing Yokota as someone "whose words moved people's hearts." Yokota, 87 at the time of his death from old age in June, was tragically drawn into the issue when Megumi was abducted in 1977 at age 13. He worked for more than two decades alongside family members of other abductees in pressing the Japanese government to make every effort to rescue their loved ones, whom they believe are still alive in the North. Yokota's daughter, however, has yet to return to Japan after her kidnapping and he never saw her again.
Family members of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s urged the government on Wednesday to work for the swift repatriation of victims, following the launch of a new Cabinet and the appointment of a new minister in charge of the abduction issue. "Please return the victims to their home country as soon as possible," Sakie Yokota, whose daughter Megumi was abducted in 1977 at the age of 13, told reporters at her home in Kawasaki. With the victims' family members aging, the 84-year-old Yokota said parents are unlikely to see their abducted children again. Her husband, Shigeru, a central figure in efforts to bring back the abductees, died at age 87 in June without being reunited with Megumi. With the new chief Cabinet secretary, Katsunobu Kato, again assuming the ministerial post of tackling the abduction issue, Yokota said she pins her hopes on Kato's expertise and knowledge.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Wednesday he had made a new resolution to bring back as soon as possible Japanese nationals kidnapped decades ago by North Korea. Abe made the statement after meeting with members of a group representing families of abductees at the prime minister's office, including Shigeo Iizuka, 78, whose younger sister Yaeko Taguchi was kidnapped in 1978 when she was 22 years old. The abductees' kin called for the repatriation of all their missing loved ones within the year as their families are aging. Abe said he would do all he can to "have them home as soon as possible." Sakie Yokota -- the 81-year old mother of Megumi Yokota, who was abducted 40 years ago at the age of 13 -- also attended the meeting.