In the previous part, I outlined the circumstances of North Korea’s abduction of Japanese citizens in previous decades. I also highlighted the accounts that North Korea have provided to Japan of the abductees’ whereabouts. This part will examine the claims made by North Korea on a case-by-case basis, starting with those whom North Korea has not accounted for.
There are four suspected abductees who North Korea has yet to provide information for: Yutaka Kume, Minoru Tanaka, Miyoshi Soga, and Kyoko Matsumoto. Tanaka and Matsumoto were only added to the list in the past two years, but Yutaka Kume was one of the first ten identified abductions. He is the earliest and oldest on the list, and one would expect his whereabouts to be known by North Korea. However, it is Miyoshi Soga who is the most peculiar omission. Japan claims that she was abducted with her daughter, Hitomi. Hitomi Soga was returned to Japan in 2002, yet nothing has emerged about her mother. Hitomi certainly doesn’t know what happened to her; she believed for 24 years that she was still living in Japan. Despite being captured and restrained together, something happened along the way. Perhaps she did not make it to North Korea… only her kidnappers can say for sure.
For those that North Korea have admitted to abducting, there are high levels of attrition. Nine of them are dead. Perhaps even more disturbingly, it claims that eight of the nine sets of remains got lost at some point, only one set was recovered from these. Even though they returned that one recovered set (Kaoru Matsuki’s) and the remains of Megumi Yokota (the only set not claimed to have been lost), both showed traces of other people’s DNA. There has been some controversy over the accuracy of Japan’s evidence, which I hope to cover in a later entry, but still, it appears that North Korea did not keep the remains of the individuals isolated (indeed, it admits to mixing them in the case of Matsuki). Does this tell us something about the treatment of the dead in North Korea?
The most unusual parts of North Korea’s claims are the deaths of three abductee couples. All three saw the death of one of the pair, followed shortly or immediately after by the other. Yaeko Taguchi died in a car accident shortly after her husband Tadaaki Hara died of hepatic cirrhosis. Shuichi Ishikawa died of a heart attack at 24 while drowning, followedly by his wife Rumiko Masumoto two years later, also a case of heart failure at age 27. Finally, Keiko Arimoto and Toru Ishioka died with their child after being poisoned by their coal heater, shortly after Ishioka’s family received a letter presumably smuggled out of the country by a third party.
Of the three, the deaths of Taguchi and Hara are the least suspicious, however, North Korea provided no evidence of his condition, and the bodies were lost… in fact, all six corpses are missing. The deaths of Keiko Arimoto and Toru Ishioka have invited criticism that they were actually killed by the regime, particularly from Ishioka’s family in Japan. It is the deaths of Masumoto and Ishikawa are the most suspicious to me… A couple dying at such a young age from heart failure within three years of their abductions. In the case of all these deaths, only North Korea knows what happened to them, and they aren’t speaking.
All of this goes without a focus on the poster girl of the abduction issue: Megumi Yokota. She is surrounded in such controversy that I will have to dedicate a full entry to her at some point in the future. It is from an understanding of her story and that of her parents that one can understand the political power behind the abduction issue.
Until next time…