Grief-stricken families of Japanese
abducted by North Korea pin hopes on Trump
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[November 01, 2017]
By Elaine Lies
TOKYO (Reuters) - Takuya Yokota vividly
remembers clutching a flashlight and running to the ocean with his
mother and twin brother to look for his older sister in the dark,
shouting her name.
Megumi, then 13, had disappeared on her way home from school on a cold
November day 40 years ago, kidnapped - it emerged decades later - by
North Korean agents to help train spies. None of them has ever seen her
again, one of scores Japan believes were snatched away in the 1970s and
"Our house was thrust into a bottomless darkness," Yokota, nine at the
time, told Reuters. "Every day after that was silent and hard.”
Now, as tensions rise after North Korean missile launches over Japan and
nuclear tests, U.S. President Donald Trump has made Megumi's case part
of his attacks on Pyongyang. He mentioned her in a September speech at
the United Nations and during his Japan visit next week plans to meet
her parents and other families whose loved ones were stolen.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made the abductions a keystone of his
political career and said he won't rest until all 13 of those Pyongyang
admits to kidnapping have returned and divulges information about the
others Japan suspects were taken. Megumi Yokota has become the poster
child for the cause.
But progress has largely stalled since 2002, when five of the 13
returned home. Pyongyang said the other eight, including Megumi, were
Trump is the third U.S. president abductee families have met, following
George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Yokota hopes the Trump meeting will give the issue new life. With Abe in
charge, Megumi's return may be closer, although Yokota shows hints of
impatience with Abe, in office since late 2012.
"I'd like (Abe) to put his reputation and his government on the line and
lead this issue to a resolution," he said.
[to top of second column]
Takuya Yokota shows a picture of his sister Megumi Yokota, a
Japanese national abducted by North Korean agents decades ago as a
schoolgirl, on his smartphone during an interview with Reuters in
Tokyo, Japan October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Toru Hasuike, the brother of abductee Kaoru Hasuike, one of those
who returned to Japan, says the Trump meeting is merely a nod to
Abe's conservative base.
"This is a performance, making political use of them," he told
Reuters, referring to the Yokotas. "Asking America for help is
strange. It’s our country, so the Japanese government should take
responsibility to help them.”
Raising the issue will generate more awareness, but progress is
unlikely, said Robert Boynton, a journalism professor at New York
University and author of a 2016 book on the abductions.
"The sad thing is I think the North Koreans are playing a waiting
game - waiting for people like the Yokotas to pass away, that the
next generation won't be as exercised and the issue will just go
away," Boynton said.
Takuya Yokota hopes to once again meet the older sister who doted on
her twin brothers.
"I think of her at work, I think of her before I sleep," he said.
"When it gets cold and the snow falls ... I wonder if she's warm
enough. I think of this every day."
(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Malcolm Foster and Nick
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