Megumi Yokota was only 13 when she was abducted by a North Korean agent in the 1970s. Now, almost 40 years after her disappearance, her aging parents, Shigeru and Sakie Yokota, have traveled to Mongolia to meet her daughter — their granddaughter.
In a series of meetings in Ulan Bator arranged by Japanese and North Korean foreign ministry officials, the Japanese couple met 26-year-old Kim Eun-gyong, her husband and 10-month-old daughter.
“Our long-cherished dream had come true,” Shigeru Yokota said at a press conference. “It was actually first time to meet her although I’ve been seeing her on TV (since she was) 14 or 15.”
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Yokota, who was kidnapped from the port city of Niigata in 1977, was not present at the meeting. North Korean authorities insist that she committed suicide, although this is disputed in Japan and repatriated ashes proved not to be a DNA match.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters Monday morning that he was “glad” to hear that the meeting was conducted safely.
“We are determined to resolve the abduction issue at any cost,” he said.
The abductee issue is a considerable sticking point in Japan-North Korea relations. The reclusive state has admitted to kidnapping a number of Japanese nationals, mostly to help train spies in Japanese language and culture.
The Yokotas said that they were unable to confirm their daughter’s safety with Kim, as political matters were off the table. However, her mother said, “I spent time with them believing Megumi is still safe somewhere.”
The meeting took place as North Korea’s bellicosity is once again on the rise, with reports that the Stalinist state has fired a number of short-range missiles into the sea off its east coast.