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Thursday, April 25, 2002

Details of another suspected abductee released


Staff writer

OSAKA -- The identity of another man suspected of having been abducted by North Korea in 1980 has been made public, and his photograph were released Wednesday by a group working to secure the release of abductees.

News photo
Kaoru Matsuki

The National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea (NARKN) said it suspects Kaoru Matsuki was kidnapped by the same Red Army Faction members who reportedly abducted a Japanese woman in 1983.

NARKN said Matsuki, originally from Kumamoto Prefecture, was a 19-year-old college student traveling in Europe when he disappeared during summer 1980.

There was no indication of his whereabouts until fall 1988, when the family of the female abductee, Keiko Arimoto, received a copy of a letter from an unidentified family in Sapporo, whose own son had disappeared.

The letter was from the son, who is being identified only as "Mr. I," who wrote that he, Arimoto and Matsuki were all living in North Korea.

NARKN, which includes relatives of the 11 Japanese whom the Japanese government believes were abducted by North Korea, had long suspected that Red Army Faction members involved in the hijacking of a Japan Airlines plane in 1970 had kidnapped at least a few Japanese.

"Our organization has received various reports over the years from Japanese police and North Korean residents in Japan that some Japanese, including Matsuki, were lured to North Korea by Red Army Faction members or their wives," said Makoto Kurasaka, a professor at Osaka Economics University who heads the Osaka chapter of NARKN.

However, fearing for their son's life, Matsuki's parents did not want their son's identity made public until last week, NARKN officials said.

"Recent developments surrounding Keiko Arimoto's case led (Matsuki's) parents to decide to release their son's name and a photo, hoping that the government would officially place him on the list of Japanese kidnapped by North Korea," Kurasaka said. Arimoto's case has rekindled interest in the abduction issue, prompting the government to renew efforts to resolve the matter.

While Matsuki's fate remains unknown, Arimoto is believed to be alive and living in Pyongyang. In the photograph the Arimotos received from the mother of "Mr. I" in 1988, Arimoto is seen standing between "Mr. I" and Matsuki, holding a child whose father she identifies as "Mr. I."

Earlier this month, Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Katsuei Hirasawa, a key member of a group of Diet members concerned about the abduction issue, said North Korea might agree to let Japanese reporters see Arimoto by the end of this month. However, there has been no further word on when, or even if, such a meeting will take place.

North Korea's missing

North Korea in 2000 asked Japan to ascertain the whereabouts of 259 Koreans who have not been seen since World War II, and not just the 108 cited in official talks that year, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said Wednesday.

Confirming a report in the Wednesday editions of the Sankei Shimbun daily over the additional request by the North Korean Red Cross Society, Fukuda said, "I heard North Korea made the request about an additional search."

The newspaper said Pyongyang asked Tokyo to track down 108 Koreans in official Red Cross talks between Japan and North Korea in March 2000. Japan reportedly promised to conduct a thorough search and report its results to the North.

During an unofficial meeting involving officials from both the Japanese and North Korean Red Cross societies and the government in July of the same year, however, Pyongyang also asked Tokyo to search for an additional 151 Koreans.

The newspaper said North Korea may take up developments in Japan's search of the 259 at bilateral Red Cross talks that will start Monday in Beijing.



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The Japan Times

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