Mother growing desperate 46 years after her daughter's abduction by North Korea

Wednesday marks the 46th anniversary of a 13-year-old Japanese girl's abduction by North Korean agents. Her mother Sakie, now aged 87, has urged the government to make an all-out effort to bring her home.

Yokota Megumi is one of at least 17 Japanese nationals who were abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s. Five of them were returned in Japan in 2002, but the whereabouts of the other 12 remains unknown.

Megumi was kidnapped in Niigata City on the Sea of Japan coast while on her way home from junior high school on November 15, 1977.

Yokota Megumi pictured in April 1977.

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Together with the families of the other abductees, Sakie has been campaigning for decades for her daughter's return, giving speeches and collecting signatures across Japan.

She hasn't given up, but she couldn't hide her despair in an interview with NHK World on Tuesday.

"I'm filled with frustration, despair and sadness," she said. "I've asked the current prime minister and his predecessors for help. I can't help but wonder why the issue has made so little progress."

Yokota Sakie spoke with NHK World by phone a day before the 46th anniversary of her daughter's abduction.

Sakie urged the government to take determined steps and hold a summit with North Korea as soon as possible to bring back all the abductees.

Former Japanese abductee warns time is running out

The five abductees who returned to Japan in October 2002 did so following a Tokyo-Pyongyang summit. North Korea's then-leader Kim Jong Il had admitted to the abductions.

Hasuike Kaoru, one of the returnees, delivered a speech about Megumi in Niigata City on Tuesday.

Hasuike Kaoru, abducted by North Korea in 1978, returned to Japan on October 15, 2002.

He urged the Japanese government to gather information on what North Korea wants and clarify Japan's position with the aim of holding a bilateral summit.

He noted that improving Japan-North Korea ties is impossible without the North returning the abductees while their parents, including Sakie, are still alive.

Hasuike stressed the need to tell Pyongyang that time is running out not only for Japan but also for North Korea.

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Megumi's classmates pray for her safe return

At Megumi's elementary school in Niigata City, her former classmates prayed for her safe return with students on Tuesday.

"Megumi was a very bright and cheerful girl. She was also very kind," Megumi's former classmate Ikeda Masaki told about 470 students. "I really hope she and her mother will be reunited and can hug each other again."

Ikeda and another former classmate, violinist Yoshida Naoya, then performed to pray for her safe return.

Megumi's former classmates perform for Megumi at their elementary school on Tuesday.

Sakie, who listened to their performance by phone, told students that the past 46 years without her daughter have been hell and she couldn't talk about anything happy. "But I believe Megumi will come home," she said.

Kishida vows to do his utmost

Prime Minister Kishida Fumio on Wednesday said it's "extremely regrettable" that Megumi and other abductees are still in North Korea.

"Considering the aging of the abductees' family members, it is a pressing human rights issue," Kishida told reporters.

Kishida said he feels bold efforts must be made to bring home the abductees as soon as possible.

Prime Minister Kishida Fumio said it's "extremely regrettable" that many abductees remain in North Korea.

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