Abduction Cases - Over 80,000 in All

In the 1970s and 1980s, a number of people disappeared from various coastal areas around Japan. Investigations on their disappearances turned up nothing. For years, there was very little, if any, connection among the disappearances. However, that changed in 1987 when two North Korean secret agents planted a bomb on a South Korean airliner killing all 115 passengers on board. Following the bombing, one of the North Korean agents, Kim Hyon Hi, was apprehended. She told authorities she and her accomplice had posed as Japanese tourists in order to get aboard the plane to plant the bomb. Ms. Kim also told authorities that she was able to pose as a Japanese citizen because of training she’d received from a Japanese woman abducted by North Korea. Suddenly, an incredible conspiracy appeared to be unfolding. The Japanese government tried, in vain, to raise the issue with the North Korean government during private meetings in the 1980s and early 1990s. However, the North Korean government denied any involvement and was insulted that the Japanese would even suggest that they had kidnapped Japanese citizens. The matter was summarily dropped from diplomatic discussions.

Here is a list of the number of abduction victims per country.

Timeline

1997

North Korean spy provides evidence After years of rumors, a North Korean defector who had been trained as a spy in Pyongyang emerged. His name is An Myong Jin. He told authorities he’d seen a young Japanese woman at the spy school who’d been kidnapped by North Korea. It was later determined that her name was Megumi Yokota, a girl from Niigata, Japan who’d gone missing in November, 1977 at the age of 13. Mr. An met with the parents of the girl and he identified her as the one he’d seen in North Korea. The Japanese government resumed its investigation into her disappearance as well as several other suspicious cases of missing people. In spite of Mr. An’s astonishing testimony, the North Korean government continued to deny any involvement in any kidnappings.

2002

North Korea admits to kidnappings firefox After years of denials by North Korea and increasing public pressure in Japan to resolve the issue of the abductions, the North Korean government finally admitted it had taken 13 Japanese people between 1977 and 1983. They made this stunning admission during a historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi during the Japanese PM’s visit to Pyongyang. The North Koreans apologized for the abductions blaming a rogue group of spies who were out of control although Mr. An has publicly stated that spies were ordered by their commanders to abduct Japanese citizens during the 1970s and 1980s. Kim Jong Il was also head of the spy school at the time of the abductions. Although there was no official explanation for why these people were taken, it is believed the North Koreans used them to train their spies in the language and culture of the Japanese. Those spies could then go out into the world and carry out missions posing as Japanese people. Unfortunately, bad news followed the admission of the kidnappings. During the summit, the North Koreans said that of the 13 people they kidnapped only 5 were still alive, the other 8 were dead. Those five people were returned on October 15, 2002 in a very public and emotional reunion in Tokyo. All five of the returnees now live and work in Japan.

2004

DNA results inconclusive In spite of North Korea’s admission, many of the families of the 8 people, said to be dead, did not believe what they were told. They had good reason not to. Many of North Korea’s claims about the reasons for their deaths were dubious at best. For instance, two people were said to have died in a car accident in a country where very few people drive cars. Two others were said to have died in a gas leak in their home. One man was said to have drowned even though his family says he was a terrible swimmer and the seas on the alleged day of his death were rough. Moreover, North Korea refused to provide any proof of their death except for a death certificate. After North Korean defectors claimed they’d seen one abductee after the date of her alleged death, North Korea reissued a death certificate claiming she’d died a year later than they’d originally stated. North Korea claimed, and still claims, that most of the bodies of the dead were washed away in floods. In December, the North Koreans attempted to put to rest the debate over the deaths by providing the remains of the most famous of the abductees, Megumi Yokota, the 13-year-old girl snatched from Niigata in 1977. However, DNA tests by the Japanese government revealed that the ashes were not hers but those of two other anonymous people.

2006

Megumi's mother and brother meet with President Bush firefox In April, the mother of Megumi Yokota met with US President George W. Bush at the White House in Washington, DC. She appealed to him in person to help her family rescue her daughter as well as the other abductees. President Bush called that meeting one of the most moving of his Presidency. The families of the people kidnapped continue to campaign around the world for assistance in bringing their relatives home. In September, a new Prime Minister was elected in Japan. Shinzo Abe has put the resolution of the abductions of Japanese citizens at the top of his foreign policy agenda and continues to push other nations, including the United States, to assist Japan in getting answers about the whereabouts of the remaining abductees.

2007

Hundreds still missing During a bilateral meeting between North Korea and Japan in Vietnam in March, the North Koreans told the Japanese government that the issue of the abductions was over and that they no longer wished to discuss it. The Japanese, however, continue to raise the issue with the North Koreans at every available opportunity. As of June, there are 17 people listed on Japan’s official list of people abducted by North Korea. Groups that investigate suspicious disappearances in Japan believe the number to be as many as 500. South Korea lists 485 people were abducted by North Korea. Other nations that have cases of suspected abductions include Romania, Lebanon, Thailand, France, China, Singapore, Italy, Holland, Jordan and Malaysia.

Official List

Name Gender Born Circumstances of disappearance Current Status
Yutaka Kume Male ca. 1925 Disappeared in September 1977 from Noto Peninsula, Ishikawa Prefecture North Korea denies any involvement
Megumi Yokota Female October 15, 1964 Disappeared November 15, 1977 from Niigata, Niigata Prefecture Allegedly died March 13, 1994 in North Korea [date was originally announced as 1993 but was later corrected by Pyongyang]
Yasushi Chimura Male June 4, 1955 Disappeared in 1978 together with his fiancee Fukie Hamamoto Alive (returned)
Fukie Hamamoto Female June 8, 1955 Disappeared in 1978 together with her fiance Yasushi Chimura Alive (returned)
Yaeko Taguchi Female August 10, 1955 Disappeared June 1978 from Tokyo Allegedly died July 30, 1986 in North Korea.
Rumiko Masumoto Female November 1, 1954 Disappeared August 12, 1978 from Fukiage Kagoshima Prefecture, together with her boyfriend Shuichi Ichikawa Allegedly died August 17, 1981 in North Korea
Shuichi Ichikawa Male October 20, 1954 Disappeared August 12, 1978 from Fukiage Kagoshima Prefecture, together with his girlfriend Rumiko Masumoto Allegedly died September 4, 1979 in North Korea
Hitomi Soga Female May 17, 1959 Disappeared together with her mother Miyoshi Soga on August 1978 from Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture Married Charles Robert Jenkins, a deserter from the United States Army, in 1980, and returned to Japan with him in 2004.
Miyoshi Soga Female ca. 1932 Disappeared together with her daughter Hitomi Soga on August 1978 from Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture Unknown
Tadaaki Hara Male August 10, 1936 Disappeared June, 1980 from Miyazaki, Miyazaki Prefecture Allegedly died July 19, 1986 in North Korea
Toru Ishioka Male June 29, 1957 Disappeared May, 1980 from Madrid, Spain during a trip in Europe Allegedly died November 4, 1988 in North Korea
Kaoru Matsuki Male June 23, 1953 Disappeared May, 1980 from Madrid, Spain during a trip in Europe Allegedly died August 23, 1996 in North Korea
Keiko Arimoto Female January 12, 1960 Disappeared June, 1983 from London, United Kingdom while studying English abroad Allegedly died November 4, 1988 in North Korea
Kaoru Hasuike Male September 29, 1957 Disappeared with his girlfriend Yukiko Okudo Alive (returned)
Yukiko Okudo Female April 15, 1956 Disappeared with her boyfriend Kaoru Hasuike Alive (returned)
Minoru Tanaka Male ca. 1950 Disappeared in June 1978. Persuaded to go overseas, and taken to North Korea later North Korea denies any involvement

Unofficial List

firefox COMJAN - The Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese probably related to North Korea has an list of unofficial abductions on their website. Click here to read the list.