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5 Japanese Kidnapped by N. Korea Set to Visit Japan - 2002-10-09

Five Japanese citizens who were kidnapped by North Korea will return to Japan for a visit next week. It will be their first trip back to their homeland in at least two decades.

Tokyo says the five abducted Japanese are due in Japan on October 15, just two weeks before Tokyo and North Korea reopen talks on establishing diplomatic ties.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry says the visits will last one or two weeks.

After their abductions, the abductees married and had children. But the Japanese government says these children will not come to Japan with their parents. A relative of one of the kidnapping victims, Tamotsu Chimura, told Japanese reporters that all family members should come back to Japan. If they do not, it is as if they are being left in North Korea as hostages.

After years of denials, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il admitted to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi last month that the people had been kidnapped and apologized. The admission came at a landmark summit in Pyongyang.

Pyongyang says the five Japanese who are to return to Japan are the only survivors among at least 13 people who were abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s. They were taken to the reclusive nation to teach spies about Japanese language and culture.

In Japan, there is widespread concern over the fate of the other abductees who Pyongyang says died in accidents, natural disasters or from illnesses. Many people here suspect that they were murdered or that they could still be alive.

Tokyo on Tuesday added four names to the official list of Japanese citizens it says were abducted by North Korea. Some support groups estimate the real number could be as high as 60.