Japanese families prepare for reunion with loved ones

Thursday, October 10, 2002

TOKYO -- After nearly a quarter century, five Japanese abducted by North Korea will be allowed to return home briefly next week, but without their children, officials and relatives of the victims said Wednesday.

The five are among at least 13 Japanese kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s and taken to the secretive communist country to train spies in Japanese language and culture. They are the only ones known to be alive.

The five -- two men and three women now in their mid 40s -- will be allowed to return next Tuesday for one or two weeks, but may not bring their children, said Shoichi Nakagawa, head of a lawmakers' group supporting families of abductees.

The survivors married in North Korea and are said to have six children.

Some survivors' families reacted angrily to the news the children would not be coming to Japan.

"They should come back with the entire family. Leaving behind the kids -- my grandchildren -- is like leaving behind hostages," said Tamotsu Chimura, father of Yasushi Chimura, who was abducted in 1978.

"To think they've been away for 24 years and they can't bring their families -- anyone would say that is not right," said Yuko Hamamoto, whose brother Fukie is among the surviving abductees.

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