Abducting Japanese citizens to train them for espionage purposes is one of those issues brought against North Korea that might seem less important than the international outcry to stop its nuclear program. But to the five who lived to return to Japan after undergoing such harrowing experiences – Kaoru Hasuike, 56, and his wife, Yukiko, 57, from Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture; Hitomi Soga, 54, from Sado, also in Niigata; and Yasushi Chimura and his wife, Fukie, both 58, from Obama, Fukui Prefecture – this issue should never be forgotten and buried under more prominent ones. It has been 11 years since the five were repatriated to Japan from being abducted by the hermit state.
On Saturday, Soga addressed a gathering of 270 people in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, still expressing her fervent desire “to put an end to this problem as soon as possible.” There has been no substantial progress on the issue since the repatriation of the five – it is believed that there are other abductees still in North Korea – despite Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s oft-stated goal of resolving the issue. Soga said that she was abducted with her mother, Miyoshi, in Sado. Miyoshi’s whereabouts are still unknown, and the North has denied that they abducted her. Soga said she is still waiting for her mother to return home.
Hasuike has also been traveling across Japan to speak about the issue. “There is no chance that the victims who were left behind (in North Korea) don’t know about our return home. They are waiting for their rescue amid the sense of frustration and hope,” Hasuike said. Hasuike said that even as Japan focuses on other issues with North Korea, such as its nuclear and missile threats, the abduction issues must not be forgotten. In April, Hasuike was appointed as associate professor of economics at the Kashiwazaki-based Niigata Sangyo University, where he has taught since 2008. Besides teaching the Korean language and culture, Hasuike also runs a translation business. The others have also settled in to rebuilding what was left of their lives, but all of them still remember their years in the North, and the sad thought that there may still be others there undergoing the very same experiences they had.