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N Korea spy meets abductee's son

11 March 09 12:53 GMT

A former North Korean spy has held a rare meeting with relatives of a Japanese woman abducted by Pyongyang 31 years ago to train her.

Kim Hyon-hui, who was jailed for the 1987 bombing of a Korean Air flight, met the son of Yaeko Taguchi in the South Korean city of Busan.

She told him that she believed Ms Taguchi was alive, despite North Korean statements to the contrary.

Ms Taguchi was seized from her Tokyo home in 1978, at the age of 22.

She is one of 13 Japanese nationals that the communist nation has admitted to kidnapping in the late 1970s and early 1980s to train its spies.

North Korea has returned five of the abductees and says the other eight are dead - but Japan does not believe that this is true.

'Fresh hope'

Kim Hyon-hui, the former agent, held a 90-minute closed-door meeting with 32 year-old Koichiro Iizuka, who was one when his mother was abducted, and Shigeo Iizuka, Ms Taguchi's brother.

The 47-year-old has said in the past that Ms Taguchi taught her Japanese language and how to pass herself off as a Japanese tourist - a disguise she used when she planted the airline bomb that killed 115 people.

"She told me quite clearly that my mother ... is still alive, so I have fresh hope for her return," Mr Iizuka told journalists afterwards.

North Korea says Ms Taguchi died in a car accident in 1986. But Japan is seeking concrete proof of her death, as well as information on several other of its nationals it believes Pyongyang kidnapped.

Tokyo wants the issue resolved before diplomatic ties with Pyongyang can be normalised.

Kim Hyon-hui was sentenced to death for her role in the North Korean-ordered airline bombing, but later pardoned by South Korean authorities.

She married her South Korean bodyguard in 1997 and lives in seclusion in a South Korean city, Yonhap news agency said.

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