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5 Japanese Abducted by N. Korea Return Home - 2002-10-15


Five Japanese citizens who were abducted by North Korea are back in their homeland to visit their families.

During a brief appearance at a news conference, the five abductees had only brief comments.

Fukie Hamamoto, now 47 and married to one of the other abductees, said she is glad to be able to see everyone. She thanked everybody for their support.

Kaoru Hasuike, another abductee, shared her gratitude. He also married one of the other kidnapped Japanese.

Mr. Hasuike, who is 45, apologized for what he says was the trouble that his disappearance caused. He says he is happy to see that his parents are well.

On arrival at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, the five abductees wept and hugged their relatives. Family members, who had not seen them for nearly a quarter of a century, gave each returnee a large bouquet of roses. All wore blue ribbons and some waved Japanese flags.

At least 13 Japanese people were kidnapped by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s to help train spies. Despite the visits of the five abductees, the Japanese remain deeply concerned about the fate of the other eight kidnapping victims. Pyongyang says the other eight died from illness or in accidents. The abductees will spend up to two weeks in Japan before returning to North Korea. Pyongyang barred the children of the abductees and the husband of one from making the trip. The returnees' families have requested that the reunions be private affairs. Reversing years of denial, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il admitted to the abductions last month at a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. The summit paved the way for the two countries to resume talks on diplomatic ties.

Government spokesman Yasuo Fukuda says the abduction issue is critical to normalizing ties with North Korea and that seeking the truth remains at the top of the agenda. He says this humanitarian issue cannot be neglected.

The two countries are to hold a new round of talks in Malaysia on October 29-30, the first such conference in two years.

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