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Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 13:19 GMT 14:19 UK
Kidnapped Japanese silent on abductions
Shigeru Yokota, father of Megumi, said to have committed suicide
Relatives of those still missing want to find out more
Five Japanese nationals who are paying a visit to their home country after their kidnap by North Korea 24 years ago have been catching up with their long-lost family.

The five spent the day on Wednesday with their relatives at a Tokyo hotel, enjoying a sushi meal.

Kaoru Hasuike and his wife Yukiko Okudo
Kaoru Hasuike (right) has been socialising with old friends
The group, who arrived in Japan amid emotional scenes on Tuesday, are the only known survivors of at least 13 Japanese kidnapped by North Korea in the 1970s and 80s.

But relatives of the eight kidnapped Japanese whom North Korea says are now dead have expressed frustration after their meetings with the returning five.

They had hoped the visitors would shed light on the circumstances of the deaths, amid suspicions that their relatives may still be alive, or died through foul play.

Identities were hidden

"They kept saying they didn't know, they didn't know," said Shigeo Iizuka, the brother of Yaeko Taguchi, who North Korea says died in a traffic accident.

"They looked down as they spoke and couldn't meet my eyes."

"I thought I was listening to a tape recorder," said Teruaki Masumoto, whose brother was also among those said to be dead.

But some of the visitors did say they had heard rumours that Megumi Yokota, abducted in 1977 when she was 13, and whom they lived near, had been unwell and later died.

North Korea says she committed suicide in hospital where she was being treated for depression.

All the returnees, however, said they had concealed their nationalities in North Korea and this had prevented them from becoming closer to each other.

Sensitive subjects

Family members of the five - who are now all in their 40s - said they appeared to be speaking freely but said they had yet to discuss whether they wanted to return to Japan permanently.

"My son really does not talk about it," said Tamotsu Chimura, the father of Yasushi Chimura.

The brother of Fukie Hamamoto, who is married to Yasushi, said: "I don't even know when to bring up that subject."

But the visitors have been full of apologies for their relatives, who had no idea until North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's startling admission last month, that the five were even alive.

Megumi Yokota pictured before her abduction in 1977 (AP photo)
Megumi Yokota is said to have committed suicide
Japan's missing
  • Eight Japanese said to be dead
  • Five still alive in North Korea
  • Kim Jong-il says he has punished the culprits
    See also:

  • Toru Hasuike, said his brother Kaoru, who disappeared with his girlfriend Yukiko Okudo in 1978, had apologised to his now father-in-law for not asking for Yukiko's hand in marriage.

    The couple now have two children. None of the visitors have been allowed to bring their children with them.

    Kaoru Hasuike is reported to have spent Tuesday night meeting about 10 relatives before drinking with five school friends in the hotel.

    When the beer ran out, he called the lobby for more, JiJi Press said.

    The five will return to their hometowns on Thursday, where feverish preparations were being made to welcome them.

    Hitomi Soga, who was abducted with her mother when she was 19, before she graduated from high school, is to be presented with her graduation diploma, a Sado High School official told AP.

    Mr Kim's acknowledgement and apology for the kidnappings has paved the way for talks, to be held on 29 and 30 October in Kuala Lumpur, to discuss normalising relations between Japan and North Korea.

    The visitors will return to North Korea on the 27 or 28 October, the Japanese Government said.

    Nuclear tensions

    Inside North Korea

    Divided peninsula

    See also:

    16 Oct 02 | Media reports
    15 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
    02 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
    03 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
    27 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
    18 Sep 02 | Media reports
    17 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
    17 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
    17 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
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