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Japanese Abductees Choose to Stay in Japan - 2002-12-19

Five Japanese abducted by North Korea say they want to live in their homeland permanently. The group is disappointed that their families in North Korea have not yet been able to join them.

In a symbolic gesture, the five Japanese appeared in public Thursday for the first time without their North Korean lapel badges.

Yasushi Chimura, one of the five, tells reporters they removed the badges displaying the face of late North Korean President Kim Il Sung because they want to stay in Japan. He says the act should not be interpreted as a hostile one toward North Korea.

The five were abducted more than 20 years ago to train North Korean spies. Pyongyang for years denied the kidnappings, but in September, suddenly confessed to having taken 13 people. North Korea says eight are dead.

The group sent a letter to the Japanese prime minister saying they are disappointed that their families have not been able to join them. The abductees' seven children and the American husband of one remain in North Korea. Kaoru Hasuike says the abductees realize that dialogue between Tokyo and Pyongyang is deadlocked and tension is increasing because of North Korea's nuclear weapons program. He says he worries how the issue will affect the possibility of his children being able to come to Japan. Yet, he says, he's not overly concerned because he knows government officials are working hard to resolve the issue.

Pyongyang says Japan has violated a pledge to send the group back to North Korea after a short visit. The five arrived in Tokyo in October for their first trip home.

On Wednesday, for the first time since their homecoming, the five abductees met to talk among themselves. They reportedly discussed the fate of eight other people North Korea has admitted kidnapping.

North Korea says the others died in accidents or killed themselves. Their families say the explanations are not plausible and want the Japanese government to press Pyongyang for their release, if they are still alive, or credible proof of their deaths.