Tuesday, June 10, 2008

MEGUMI SEEN ALIVE -- Mainichi Newspaper

Megumi Yokota seen alive 2 months after N. Korea said she had died

Megumi Yokota, a Japanese national who was abducted by North Korea, was seen in June 1994, two months after the time the reclusive country maintains that she died, it has been learned.

Fukie Chimura, 52, who was also abducted by North Korea, told Japanese authorities at the end of last year that Yokota "moved in next door to us in June 1994."

Pyongyang has maintained that Yokota "died in April 1994" and that the abduction issue has already been settled, but the latest testimony contradicts the North's assertion.

According to Chimura, Yokota moved in by herself next door to the home of Chimura and her 52-year-old husband, Yasushi, in June 1994. Chimura said Yokota lived there for several months, but that she doesn't know her whereabouts after that.

"She was suffering severe depression and was mentally unstable," Chimura said in describing the condition of Yokota at the time. "A high-ranking North Korean intelligence official was monitoring her," Chimura said.

Another former abductee, Kaoru Hasuike, 50, earlier testified that Yokota had been separated from her husband since around spring 1993 -- a year before the time when North Korea claims she died -- after they had a fall out. Hasuike also said he helped Yokota prepare to be admitted to a psychological hospital in March 1994.

Japanese law enforcers earlier found out that North Korea's intelligence department carried out the abduction of Japanese nationals.

The North said during the Tokyo-Pyongyang summit in 2002 that Yokota "committed suicide in March 1993." However, after the Mainichi reported in August 2004 that Hasuike told the Japanese Foreign Ministry that he "had had seen Yokota up until 1994," Pyongyang overturned its earlier assertion and said Yokota "committed suicide in April 2004," adding that the memory of an official in charge was vague.

Yokota's husband, Kim Young Nam, 46, who is a South Korean national abducted by the North, had earlier said during a press conference in North Korea: "Megumi suffered depression and committed suicide at a hospital in April 1994" -- repeating what Pyongyang had claimed.

Megumi's father, Shigeru, 75, said after hearing about Chimura's latest testimony, "I haven't heard the story directly from the Japanese government, so I would like confirm it."

Megumi's 72-year-old mother, Sakie, said, "We have strived hard believing that every abducted family member is alive. I want to rescue my daughter as soon as possible."

A series of discrepancies have surfaced regarding North Korea's explanation on what happened to Megumi Yokota. In November 2004, the North provided Japan with "the remains" of Yokota, but they turned out to be someone else's after Japanese authorities conducted DNA tests on the sample.

Because there are also discrepancies between North's assertions and Japan's findings regarding the other abductees, the Japanese government lodged a protest with the North, saying that their response lacks in sincerity. Since July 2006, the Japanese government has imposed economic sanctions on the North while Pyongyang has stuck to its stance that the abduction issue has been settled and further went on to launch test missiles into the Sea of Japan.


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