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Thursday, Dec. 20, 2001

Kin of missing slam Pyongyang move

Staff writer

OSAKA -- The families of 10 people who Tokyo believes were abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s were outraged at Pyongyang's announcement this week that it was suspending an investigation into the case.

"This shows how little you can trust North Korea," said Shigeru Yokota, whose daughter Megumi disappeared from the Sea of Japan coast in 1977. "For the longest time, they refused to acknowledge that the kidnappings had taken place, and now they say they are suspending their search, in effect admitting that they did abduct them."

The Tokyo-based National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea, or NARKN, said Wednesday that the probable reason for the sudden announcement had to do with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

"It is our position that the abductions by North Korea are an act of terrorism," said Tsutomu Nishioka, a NARKN spokesman. "We think that the North Korean government cut off the investigation out of fear that the Japanese government would, in the international war against terrorism, use the abduction issue to build a case against North Korea as a terrorist state."

Yokota also pointed to last month's arrest of Kang Young Kwan -- an executive of the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryun) -- over a credit union embezzlement case, as well as the raid on Chongryun headquarters as likely reasons for North Korea's move.

Although Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi criticized the North Korean announcement as insincere and deplorable, NARKN members are dissatisfied at the way he has so far handled the alleged abductions.

"Last fall, former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori said very clearly that the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and North Korea could not proceed until the abduction issue has been resolved," said Yokota. "But Koizumi has kept silent on the issue."

Nishioka said NARKN would continue to press the Japanese government to find out what has happened to those missing. But he added that the Koizumi administration faces a lot of opposition over the issue.

Much of the political opposition, he said, comes from the Japan-North Korean Friendship Alliance, which comprises more than 170 Diet members.

The alliance's current chairman is Masaaki Nakayama, an LDP member in the Lower House. A spokeswoman for Nakayama said that he had no official statement on behalf of the alliance. in regards to either the North Korean announcement or Koizumi's reaction.

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The Japan Times

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