Related topics

Abductee Kin Wants to Meet Relatives

October 26, 2002

%mlink(STRY:; PHOTO:TOK814-102502; AUDIO:%)

TOKYO (AP) _ The North Korean daughter of a Japanese woman kidnapped by communist spies decades ago said she wasn’t told about her mother’s abduction or the circumstances of the woman’s alleged death in a psychiatric ward.

But 15-year-old Kim Hea Kyong said in a televised interview Saturday that she was excited to hear that she had grandparents in Japan and hoped they would visit her in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.

``I was only 5 or 6 years old when my mother died of an illness,″ she told broadcaster Fuji TV in an interview conducted at a Pyongyang hotel on Friday. ``After she died, I never thought I would meet my grandparents.″

``I’ve never even seen grandmother or grandfather’s face,″ she said, as tears streamed down her cheeks. ``If I said ‘I want to go meet my own grandparents,’ why would anyone say no? But even if I wanted to go, I probably couldn’t.″

Japanese officials announced Thursday that DNA tests confirmed Kim is the daughter of Megumi Yokota, who was kidnapped in 1977. Kim bears a striking resemblance to old photographs of Yokota taken around the time she disappeared.

Yokota’s abduction was one of 13 confirmed in a surprise confession by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il at a summit with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi last month.

The five known survivors are currently in Japan for the first time since they were snatched a quarter century ago. They were initially expected to stay for a brief one- or two-week visit, but Japan has said it won’t return them to North Korea.

Japanese officials also plan to press Pyongyang to send the families of the abductees to Japan.

The issue is an emotional one for the Japanese public, perhaps even more so than North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Yokota was kidnapped at age 13 on her way home from badminton practice. Her parents doubt the North’s claim that she is dead.

According to North Korean officials, Yokota married a North Korean man after being taken to the communist country, but suffered from severe depression and killed herself at a mental facility in 1993.

Kim said she first learned her real mother was Japanese last month during Koizumi’s visit to Pyongyang, and the interview was the first time she had heard about her mother’s kidnapping.

Kim, who said she now lives with her father, stepmother and 3-year-old half brother, fondly recalled singing songs, watching TV and talking with her mother.

``After she died, we stopped doing those things and the house became quiet,″ she said.

Kim said she had only visited her mother’s grave once or twice, but was too young to remember where it was. Her father later moved the grave, she said.

Kim says she hopes to study at a university and join North Korea’s main political party in the future. Living permanently in Japan is probably out of the question, she said.

``I don’t think my father would approve of it,″ she said.

Warmer North Korea-Japan ties would probably allow her to shuttle between the two countries in the future, she said.

``I read in the labor union newspapers that Japan and North Korea would probably set up formal diplomatic relations soon. I would then be able to travel freely between my country and Japan,″ she said. ``When that happens, I want to visit my grandparents’ house in Japan.″

On Saturday, Yokota’s parents reacted angrily to the media coverage, likening the interview of their grandchild to a police interrogation.

``There were many questions that should not have been asked of a child,″ Shigeru Yokota, 69, said at a news conference. His wife, Sakie, walked out of a private screening before the broadcast in outrage.

Update hourly