Relatives of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea are hoping that the new year brings positive developments towards the return of their loved ones.
The relatives are calling for concrete and strategic efforts on the part of the government to realize their return.
Parents of abductees are aging. The father of one abductee and the mother of another passed away last year, leaving only two surviving parents.
The abductee issue remains a top priority with the government of Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide, who took office last September. Government officials say they will make use of every opportunity to solve the issue, but no solution has been found.
North Korea's ruling Workers' Party is scheduled to hold its congress in early January for the first time in five years. A new economic program is expected to be announced during the session.
North Korea's economy is said to be severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic and damage from floods.
Some abductee families say Japan should analyze the situation in the North and prompt its leader Kim Jong Un to make a decision by offering him some attractive proposals.
Iizuka Shigeo is the brother of abductee Taguchi Yaeko. He is 82 years old and heads a group of abductees' relatives.
Iizuka told NHK that the frustration of the relatives over the stalled situation has turned into anger.
Iizuka said he wants Prime Minister Suga to show some leadership in moving things forward so that a clear road map to solving the issue can be drawn up.
He said he's long been dreaming of a scene in which returning abductees and their families embrace each other at the foot of the boarding ramp of an aircraft. He added that he wants the Japanese authorities to help make that dream come true.
The Japanese government says North Korean agents abducted at least 17 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and '80s. Five were repatriated after a bilateral summit in 2002, but the rest remain unaccounted for.