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Thursday, Sept. 19, 2002

Families of abductees vow to keep up pressure


Staff writer

OSAKA -- Family members and supporters of Japanese abducted to North Korea vowed Wednesday to continue pressing the Japanese and North Korean governments for a full account of the kidnappings.

They also said they oppose any attempt to normalize relations with North Korea before the matter is dealt with.

The groups added they will demand an investigation into what the Japanese government, particularly the Foreign Ministry, knew about the abductions and why the government did not act sooner to press North Korea for answers.

The National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea, a lobby support group, said North Korea's announcement of the fate of 13 Japanese nationals Tuesday did not end the issue.

"There is still much work to be done," said Kazuhiro Araki, a NARKN spokesman. "We intend to fight until all those who were kidnapped are accounted for, and normalization of relations between Japan and North Korea should only begin then."

Over the next few weeks, NARKN said it will lobby the Diet to take action. First, it will ask that the five Japanese who the North Korean government says are still alive be allowed to return to Japan within a month.

Second, of the eight reported dead, NARKN said it will demand information on how they died, and when.

The group will also demand information on how the survivors were originally abducted to North Korea, where in North Korea they live, and what they are doing.

Deputy Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe met with the families Wednesday morning after returning from Pyongyang and promised that government representatives will be sent to North Korea before normalization talks are restarted next month to interview those who are still alive and to gather more information on those who have already died.

But some family members expressed concern.

"I believe that a lot of politicians, even within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, want to hurry up and normalize relations because of business opportunities they see in North Korea," said one family member, who did want to be identified out of concern for his relative, who was reported to be alive.

"Unless we're vigilant, the concerns of the families will get pushed aside."

NARKN and a separate group that consists only of family members of those abducted are calling on North Korea and Japan to offer financial compensation to the victims' families, as well as an apology.

The families have said they were obstructed for years by the Japanese government, particularly the Foreign Ministry, when they sought information on the abductions.

Some family members and NARKN say this was done because certain politicians in the ruling and opposition parties, as well as the Foreign Ministry, did not want to upset North Korea.

"Thus, it's now time for the Japanese government to admit what it knew about the abductions, apologize for its past treatment of the families, and to offer them compensation," NARKN's Araki said.

The groups' efforts to obtain information on the abductees are unlikely to stop with the 13 whose fate was learned of Tuesday.

"The number of Japanese abducted to North Korea that has been estimated by Japanese police and former North Korean spies who defected is anywhere between 40 and 100," said Makoto Kurosaka, head of the Osaka chapter of NARKN. "They need to be accounted for and, in the coming months, we will press the Japanese government for answers."



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