Relatives of Japanese abductees renew their calls for resolution of the issue

The relatives of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea decades ago have renewed their calls for the return of their loved ones. They met on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the historic Japan-North Korea summit where Pyongyang admitted to the abductions.

Following the summit, which took place on September 17, 2002, five abductees were repatriated. However, 12 out of the 17 abductees officially recognized by the Japanese government remain unaccounted for.

Amid stalled bilateral talks, some of the relatives have died. Yokota Shigeru, the father of abductee Yokota Megumi, who was taken from Niigata Prefecture in 1977 at the age of 13, died in 2020. Shigeru had led the relatives' group since its inauguration.

His successor, Iizuka Shigeo, whose sister Taguchi Yaeko was among the people taken to the North, died late last year.

Yokota Takuya, Megumi's younger brother and the current leader of the group, said at the gathering in Tokyo on Friday that some of the representatives of the group who met reporters after the historic summit 20 years ago are no longer on the stage. He urged the governments of both countries to recognize that there can be no resolution of the issue unless the victims can be reunited with their parents while they are still alive. He appealed to Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio to directly address North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Yokota Sakie, Megumi's mother, said it's devastating to confront the deaths of many of the people she worked with on the issue. She added she wonders how much longer she will have to endure such hardship.

Iizuka Koichiro, the son of Taguchi Yaeko, said it is abnormal that such a situation should continue for 20 years. He urged the government to seriously consider what it should do to break the impasse.