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DNA Confirms Teen Is Abductee’s Child

October 24, 2002

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OBAMA, Japan (AP) _ Genetic tests have confirmed North Korea’s claim that a teenage girl living in Pyongyang is the daughter of a Japanese woman abducted by North Korean spies decades ago, officials said Thursday.

The announcement came amid a mounting tug-of-war over the fate of five other abductees who have survived and are in Japan for an unprecedented visit with family members they haven’t seen for nearly a quarter-century.

The five are the only known survivors of 13 Japanese that North Korea has admitted abducting in the 1970s and early 80s. The North has listed the eight others as dead, often under suspicious circumstances, and Japan has insisted on delving into their fate.

That push included the recent DNA test that proved a 15-year-old girl now living in the North is the daughter of Megumi Yokota, Cabinet Office official Takashi Okada said.

Yokota was abducted in 1977 and North Korea has said she has since died. Kidnapped when she was just 13 while on her way home from a junior high school badminton practice, she is the youngest known abduction victim.

According to North Korean officials, she 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.

Yokota’s parents strongly question the North’s claim that their daughter is dead. They provided samples of hair and blood for DNA testing to confirm the girl in Pyongyang, who goes by the name Kim Hea Kyong, was actually their granddaughter.

``I am relieved to hear this,″ Shigeru Yokota, Megumi’s father, said upon being officially told of the results.

He said he hopes to meet his granddaughter as soon as possible.

``I’m filled with deep emotion,″ said his wife, Sakie. But she stressed that she still considers Megumi to be missing, not dead.

The news comes amid growing tensions over whether the homecoming of the five abduction survivors should be extended.

As returnees Yasushi Chimura and wife Fukie Hamamoto toured the sites of their hometown Obama on the Sea of Japan coast, Hamamoto’s older brother Yuko disparaged the Japanese government for not being tougher on insisting that the abductees stay in Japan for good.

``If they are told to return, we will kidnap them back,″ Yuko said, adding that the abductees’ children, who were left behind in the North, must be allowed to return to Japan as well. ``The government should take responsibility and bring them back.″

Though their homecoming, which began last Tuesday, was originally expected to last a week or two, many of their relatives echo Yuko Hamamoto’s call to bring their children over first.

The five survivors include two couples who are now married and another woman who married a former American soldier in the North. Together, they have seven children.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tetsuro Yano told a news conference Thursday the government has decided to extend the homecoming ``for the time being″ and will ask North Korea to send the children to Japan.

Reports said Tokyo was also considering granting permanent resident status in Japan to the American husband of the fifth victim, Hitomi Soga.

The husband, Charles Robert Jenkins, of Rich Square, N.C., is one of four Americans who allegedly deserted their army posts in South Korea in the 1960s. Japanese officials say Jenkins, 62, is reluctant to leave the North for fear he will be extradited to the United States.

Also Thursday, media reports quoted a North Korean Foreign Ministry official as saying Pyongyang will allow the five to return to Japan permanently with their families if they choose to do so.

But the reports said the official balked at returning the children to Japan right away, and criticized Japan for overreacting to the abduction issue, saying it was much less significant than Japan’s often brutal colonial rule of Korea from 1910-1945.

Update hourly