Abductees open up, criticize North Korea
Saturday, December 28, 2002
TOKYO -- A Japanese couple who were kidnapped and taken to North Korea 25 years ago openly criticized the isolated, totalitarian state Friday, and demanded it release their children to them.
The news conference was a sign that the five abductees, who returned to Japan in October and have refused to go back to North Korea, feel more free to speak out against the communist country since they decided last week to stay in Japan for good.
"We didn't choose to go to North Korea. All we're saying is North Korea should accept our demands and send our children back to us," Kaoru Hasuike said at a nationally televised news conference from his hometown of Kashiwazaki in northern Japan. "We refuse to be used as a political card."
Reversing years of denial, North Korea admitted in September it had kidnapped 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s to train its spies in Japanese language and culture. North Korea says eight have since died.
Hasuike was kidnapped from a neighborhood beach in July, 1978, along with his girlfriend Yukiko Okudo. After months of separation, the two were reunited in Pyongyang where they married and now have two children.
When the five first arrived in Japan, they dutifully wore North Korean badges every day and avoided sensitive questions, presumably for fear of retribution against their children who remain in the North.
The trip was originally supposed to last for only two weeks and was part of efforts to heal years of enmity between North Korea and Japan. But the abductees' decision to stay soured relations anew.
"Once I returned here, I realized how much suffering and sorrow our families had to go through because of the abductions," Hasuike said. "I felt strongly that it's a state-organized crime instead of a personal issue."
North Korea has balked at the requests to return the children. Pyongyang accuses Japan of breaking a promise to have the abductees return to North Korea after a short visit.
Okudo echoed her husband's views.
"Abduction is a terrible thing to do, the incident not only turned our own lives upside down but those of our entire family as well," she said. "It's a serious crime."
Japan's public broadcaster NHK reported Friday that the abductees' children had studied at boarding schools and were allowed to visit their parents only twice a year. The special education was designed to keep the children from talking about their parents with other children, NHK said.
Hasuike said the toughest time in his life came just after being taken to North Korea. "I was alone, I didn't know what was going to happen next. I was living with fear every day," he said.
Over time, he tried to avoid thinking about it because "it only made my life seem even more unbearable."