Japanese woman recounts North Korean abduction

A Japanese woman who was abducted by North Korea and held there for decades has spoken to NHK in her first TV interview since returning to Japan over 20 years ago.

Soga Hitomi was among at least 17 Japanese citizens the government in Tokyo says were abducted to North Korea in the 1970s and 80s.

She says she agreed to the interview because she feels time is running out for abductees who are still there and for their families.

Soga was abducted in 1978 at the age of 19. North Korean agents grabbed her and her mother, Miyoshi, in the Japanese prefecture of Niigata.

Soga came back to Japan with four other abductees in 2002 after a bilateral summit.

The whereabouts of her mother, who would now be 92, are not clear.

Soga cherishes a wristwatch her mother bought for her when she was studying to become an assistant nurse.

Soga says: "I told her I really wanted it. She's not with me now, but I feel she's always watching me. I love my mother more than anyone else in the world. Nobody could take her place. More than anything, I hope she's well."

Soga was in North Korea for 24 years. She was initially placed at a facility near Pyongyang.

There, she met Yokota Megumi, who'd been abducted from Niigata at the age of 13.

Soga says they only spoke once about how they had been abducted.

She says: "I said I had been with my mother but hadn't seen her since. I said I didn't know where she was. Megumi said she had been abducted on the way home from a school club, at a corner near home."

Two years after Soga was abducted, she was separated from Yokota. She recalls Yokota giving her a red bag.

Soga says: "She asked me to take it and think of it as her. I always took that bag when I went shopping."

Yokota has not come back to Japan. Soga says she'll always remember her. She also thinks of other abductees who are still in North Korea.

Soga says, "From the bottom of my heart, I want them all to come home while the families waiting for them are alive and well."

She's urging the Japanese government to bring all the abductees home soon.