Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Japan, N. Korea officials to meet again in Beijing (AFP) TOKYO — Senior Japanese and North Korean diplomats will meet in Beijing in December following rare talks earlier this month, Tokyo's top spokesman said Tuesday. The talks will be held on December 5-6, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said. Top of the agenda is expected to be North Korea's kidnapping of Japanese nationals in the Cold War era and its arms programme, amid media reports that Pyongyang is preparing for a long-range missile test. Japan's top negotiator will be Shinsuke Sugiyama and North Korea will be represented by Song Il-Ho. They held two-day talks in the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator in mid-November in the first senior-level meeting between the two nations in four years. After the meeting Sugiyama said the atmosphere was "not acerbic." "It was direct, serious and very rich in substance. We discussed a wide range of subjects in depth," he told reporters at that time. The countries do not have diplomatic ties and have long been at odds, with Tokyo pressing Pyongyang to come clean over past abductions of Japanese nationals and its nuclear ambitions. In 2002 Pyongyang admitted its agents had kidnapped Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s to train its spies in Japanese language and customs. North Korea maintains Japan has not made up for its wartime aggression. It demands compensation and atonement.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Megumi's Parents Last Words To Her

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201204210013 Parents’ 'last word' to abducted daughter published April 21, 2012 By RYUICHI KITANO/ Staff Writer Nearing their 80s and still not knowing the fate of their daughter, Megumi, who was abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s, Shigeru and Sakie Yokota wanted to make sure their thoughts were heard one last time. In their latest book, “Megumi e no Yuigon,” (Last word to Megumi), written by Kenji Ishidaka and published by Gentosha Inc., the Yokotas speak about their daughter and reveal their feelings toward North Korea. Shigeru, 79, said in an interview that he does not agree with the National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea, which said Japan should tighten sanctions against the reclusive country. “We have got an opportunity to negotiate (with North Korea) now that (former leader) Kim Jong Il is gone,” he said. “Strengthening sanctions could be taken as a sign that Japan is not interested in negotiating.” Megumi went missing in November 1977 on her way home from school. She was 13 years old. North Korea admitted abducting Japanese citizens, including Megumi, in September 2002, and returned five Japanese and their families in October the same year, but her parents still have no idea where their daughter is. “Yuigon” (last word) in the book's title reflects the couple’s poignant thoughts, said Ishidaka, 61, a former producer at Asahi Broadcasting Corp., who interviewed the couple and wrote the book. “I understood they were feeling that their time is limited and they cannot do many things,” he said. In the interview with The Asahi Shimbun, the couple took a critical look at Japanese politicians. Looking back on the retirement of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who put great effort into the abduction issue, in 2007 after one year in office, Sakie, 76, said, “Granted that he was ill, I felt as if I had been stabbed with a knife, hearing the news.” She also said she was often asked to pose for photos with prefectural and municipal assembly members when she gave talks in various cities and towns, which she did not like. “Maybe they wanted a picture for election campaigns, but I hated it; photo sessions make me feel miserable,” she said. It has been 35 years since Megumi was kidnapped. “The central government may think that we will get older and it will become difficult for us to act freely--and the issue of abduction will be gradually forgotten,” Sakie said, in frustration. Shigeru agreed. “Leaving the abduction problem, a violation of human rights, unsolved means that the government is not performing its task of protecting people’s lives and property,” he said. He wanted the government to move forward on resolving the abduction issue, he said. Sakie hopes Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will take action. “I hope Prime Minister Noda will send a message directly to (First Secretary) Kim Jong Un, who succeeded Kim Jong Il, that they can jointly build peace,” she said.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012


http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120418f1.html Abduction issue even more muddled by rocket launch Relatives of victims want Tokyo to take stern stance Kyodo North Korea's failed rocket launch last week once again put Japan in a tricky position over its policy toward the North, triggering concern that a stern posture will complicate efforts to move forward the stalled issue of Pyongyang's abductions of Japanese nationals. "It is natural for hardline (views) to prevail in Japan, but if this hardline stance pushes through, Japan-North Korea negotiations will likely take a back seat," said a diplomatic source knowledgeable about Japan-North Korea relations. Tokyo, which does not maintain diplomatic relations with Pyongyang, is under domestic pressure to make headway over the abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s. In their last round of bilateral talks in 2008, Japan and North Korea agreed that Pyongyang will reinvestigate what has happened to the victims, but this has yet to be carried out, according to Japanese officials. Talk of further economic sanctions is coming to the fore given the implications of the latest rocket launch. Japan and other nations view the launch as a long-range ballistic missile test in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and the 2002 Pyongyang Declaration between Japan and North Korea. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura has stated that unilateral sanctions are being considered. Japan has imposed unilateral sanctions on North Korea since July 2006 after a long-range missile test by Pyongyang and currently has in place punitive measures that include banning all imports from and exports to North Korea. Further measures could include tougher regulations on remittances, such as lowering the maximum amount of money that can be sent to North Korea by residents in Japan. Families of Japanese abductees, voicing their anger over the attempted rocket launch, have urged the government to respond sternly through "effective sanctions." Political analyst Minoru Morita warned that the adoption of a hostile stance by Japan toward North Korea on the back of the hardline position of the abductees' kin could isolate Japan from other nations, including China. Morita indicated that the government's current position could hamper efforts to find an overall solution for North Korean issues. Japan maintains a policy of seeking a comprehensive resolution of the abduction, nuclear and missile issues, but all these concerns remain unresolved, as evidenced by North Korea's latest rocket launch and South Korea's recent warning that the North might be planning a third nuclear test. "What Japan needs to do is to have its own diplomacy, its own pipeline (with the North), and steer away from its current hostile policy," Morita said, adding that at the moment Japan relies heavily on the United States in addressing North Korean issues. On the global front, Japan is part of the six-party talks along with the United States, China, Russia and the two Koreas. But the negotiations, aimed at ending Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, have been stalled since 2008. A reality check shows there is only so much that Japan can do on its own to effectively put pressure on North Korea and that working with other six-party members and the broader international community is crucial, analysts say. With the United States currently holding the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council, Tokyo is hoping to secure Washington's support for the passage of a resolution critical of North Korea's rocket launch. Japan also hopes to tap into the influence that China — another of the council's five permanent members and Pyongyang's strongest supporter — has over the North. Ken Jinbo, an associate professor in Keio University's Faculty of Policy Management, said that "Japan needs to seek an optimal way to engage China and isolate North Korea with various forums and frameworks," citing the trilateral framework of Japan, China and South Korea as one such example. Experts say that in addition to spurring a rethink of Japan's North Korea policy, the rocket launch has also provided Tokyo with an opportunity to assess the deployment of the Self-Defense Forces in the southwest. "Japan's preparations for the missile launch turned out to be a good exercise for dispatching major SDF units" to the Sakishima island chain in Okinawa Prefecture, including Ishigaki and Miyako, said Jinbo, who specializes in Japanese foreign and security policies. To brace for the rocket or any debris from it possibly falling on Japanese territory, the Defense Ministry deployed ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors mainly in Okinawa Prefecture, as well as Aegis-equipped destroyers carrying sea-based Standard Missile-3 interceptors in waters near Okinawa. Jinbo said it could be inferred that Tokyo is trying to prepare people in Okinawa for a possible deployment of SDF personnel. Japan's defense program outline calls for strengthening the defense of the Nansei islet group, which includes the Sakishima chain, apparently with China in mind.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011




With news of the death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, we immediately thought of the implications for the Japanese citizens abducted by Kim’s regime and never returned. So we asked Chris Sheridan, who made Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story with co-director Patty Kim and Academy Award-winning producer Jane Campion, to provide us with an update.

by Chris Sheridan

The death of Kim Jong-il this week is a bittersweet moment for the families of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korean secret agents in the 1970s and 1980s. On the one hand, many of them are pleased the man they believe is personally responsible for their loved ones’ disappearance is now history. But they are now faced with uncertainty as they deal with Kim Jong-un, a new leader whose positions on every issue, including the fate of their relatives, is a total mystery.

In 2002, Kim Jong-il admitted his secret agents kidnapped 13 Japanese citizens, including Megumi Yokota, a 13-year-old girl who was walking home from school in 1977 when she vanished. Megumi’s parents were the centerpiece for our film Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story as their struggle to get answers about their daughter’s disappearance went to the highest levels of government eventually affecting Japan’s discussions over North Korea’s burgeoning nuclear weapons program.

North Korea returned five of the 13 people in October, 2002. They claim the rest are dead, the victims of various accidents. Megumi, say North Korean officials, killed herself. But Megumi’s parents don’t believe North Korea’s claim and with the support of the Japanese government, have pressed for more concrete proof ever since. In 2004, North Korea returned what it claimed were her charred remains but the results of DNA tests proved inconclusive.

After the announcement of Kim Jong-il’s death, Megumi’s parents, who are the most well-known of all the abductees’ families, summed up the sentiment of many of the relatives of those kidnapped. “I’m not sure if this will lead in a positive or negative direction,” said Shigeru Yokota, Megumi’s 79-year-old father. “But I fear there will be chaos inside North Korea, which means they’ll stay away from the abduction issue.” Meanwhile, Megumi’s mother, Sakie, put her thoughts about Kim’s death very simply, “I wish Kim Jong-il had released the people who were abducted before he passed away.”

Shigeo Iizuka, whose sister is among those kidnapped citizens that North Korea claims are dead, said Monday, “I’m worried about who’ll be in charge of resolving the abduction problem on the North Korean side.” And, like many families of the abductees, he wonders if Kim Jong-un will even care enough to want to doanything. “Is Mr. Jong-un a person who’ll understand us? Or are we going to have to be more aggressive?” Kenichi Ichikawa, whose brother was kidnapped in 1978 — North Korea claims he’d since drowned — hopes that Kim Jong-un will view the abduction issue as a relic from a past government, and that “will lead to the possibility the abductees will be freed.”

Meanwhile, those Japanese citizens who were returned home to Japan in 2002, after spending a quarter of a century in North Korea, all expressed very similar concerns over the safety of fellow abductees who may still be alive in North Korea. “I ask the Japanese government to carefully monitor the situation and do its best to ensure the safety of those who are still there,” said Kaoru Haisuke, who was taken in 1978.

Some see the transition ofpower in North Korea as a clear chance to gain answers, and ultimately rescue loved ones — children, brothers, and sisters — who’d been kidnapped decades ago. Hitomi Soga, who was kidnapped along with her mother back in 1978 and returned to Japan in 2002, said, “I hope utmost efforts will be made [by those concerned] to make use of this opportunity and bring home all abductees.”

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Hi all...if you're in the Washington, DC area on April 25 and 26, please join us for the first-ever North Korea Freedom Fest, which will highlight three award-winning documentaries including ABDUCTION The Megumi Yokota Story. Held at the West End Cinema. www.westendcinema.com

This event is part of North Korea Freedom Week.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Well over 30 years since he shot to global fame with his iconic album, “Frampton Comes Alive!”, the U.K. rock guitarist and singer Peter Frampton is still writing about the 1970s. But don’t expect tales of rock’n’roll excess: Mr. Frampton has dedicated two tracks on his latest album to Megumi Yokota, a Japanese woman abducted as a girl by North Korean agents over 30 years ago and still unaccounted for.

The album, “Thank You Mr. Churchill,” contains the tracks “Asleep at the Wheel,” an extended lament for Ms. Yokota’s plight, and the instrumental, “Suite Liberte,” the first part of which is titled “Megumi”.

Ms. Yokota was kidnapped from the northern coastal city of Niigata in 1977 at age 13 by North Korean agents so she could help train North Korean spies. She reportedly married and had a child in Pyongyang. In 1997, North Korea admitted to the abduction, but said she committed suicide in 1994. Tests of DNA remains handed over to the Japanese authorities were inconclusive, and her parents and their supporters believe she is still alive.

In an e-mailed response to queries through his publicist, Mr. Frampton said he began thinking about Ms. Yokota after seeing a documentary about her on a PBS program called “Independent Lens”. “I taped the show and watched it over and over as I couldn’t believe it,” said the 60-year-old rocker and father of three. “The documentary made me think what if it was my child one day on the way to school that never came home? That could be me. That’s why it hit me so hard. It struck a deep emotional nerve.”

In “Asleep at the Wheel,” Mr. Frampton sings:

“So hard to imagine, when taken by strangers against your will,

you swallow in silence with petrified tears, bound and so still,

God knows what you’re thinking ’cause life as you knew it has just disappeared.”

At about the same time Ms. Yokota was abducted, Mr. Frampton was reaching the pinnacle of his fame. “Frampton Comes Alive!” was released in 1976 and was the best-selling album in the U.S. that year. It went on to become one of the best-selling live albums of all time.

While Mr. Frampton said he would “love” to visit Japan, he doesn’t have any plans to do so soon. If he does come, he said he would “love to meet Megumi’s parents”, especially if it would help raise awareness of the issue.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Sunday, Nov. 15, 2009

Abductees' kin hail Obama's North stance
Kyodo News

Relatives of people abducted by North Korea praised U.S. President Barack Obama's speech Saturday for delivering a strong, clear message that the matter should be settled.

"He sent a clear message to North Korea and it meant that (Pyongyang) needs to change its approach to international society," said Shigeru Yokota, whose daughter, Megumi, was taken to the reclusive country in 1977 at age 13.

Yokota, who turned 77 on Saturday, and his wife, Sakie, 73, were among invitees to Suntory Hall in Tokyo where Obama touched on the abduction issue in a major address on his first trip to Asia since taking office in January.

"The path for North Korea to realize this future is clear: a return to the six-party talks; upholding previous commitments, including a return to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty; and the full and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Obama said.

"And full normalization with its neighbors can only come if Japanese families receive a full accounting of those who have been abducted," he said.

Sakie Yokota said she hopes the North will take Obama's speech seriously.

"It was a strong message and I'm pleased with it," she said. "Obama took up the abduction issue with impressive words that clearly showed his policy. I feel things will start moving in the right direction."

Obama's remarks on North Korea's past abductions of Japanese nationals came in his first major speech about his foreign policy on Asia, in which he also pledged to strengthen the relationships between the United States and other Asia-Pacific nations.

"We will do so through our close friendship with Japan — which will always be a centerpiece of our efforts in the region," Obama told the audience of about 1,500 people, which included invitees from the political and business circles, as well as traditional Japanese arts.

Among the lawmakers in the audience, Deputy Prime Minister Naoto Kan of the Democratic Party of Japan described Obama's speech as "impressive."

"I was impressed with the way he made clear that the United States places importance on its ties with the Asia-Pacific region," Kan said of the speech, which also stated that the U.S. commitment to Japan's and Asia's security is "unshakable."