- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 16, 2002

TOKYO Five Japanese who were whisked away in their youth by North Korean spies came home yesterday, tearfully hugging their aging mothers and fathers for the first time in nearly a quarter-century.
The reunion marks a major thaw in relations between Japan and North Korea's enigmatic ruling regime, which appears to be easing its long-standing belligerence toward the outside world in search of economic aid.
The delicate position of the five, all in their 40s, was underscored at a news conference hours after their arrival on a chartered jet from Pyongyang.
The kidnapping victims who were not allowed to bring their children with them and who were expected to return to North Korea in about 10 days wore North Korean flag pins in their lapels and spoke only a few carefully chosen words.
"I truly wanted to see my family," said Hitomi Soga, who is married to an American defector. She then solemnly stood and left the room where the news conference was held.
"I can't express how happy I am to see my parents' healthy faces," said Kaoru Hasuike, who was a college student when he was abducted while on a date in 1978.
"I'm sorry for making you worry about me for so long," said Yukiko Okudo, who was seized with Mr. Hasuike after they met at a library.
They married in North Korea and raised a son there.
Also returning yesterday were Fukie Hamamoto and Yasushi Chimura, who were 23 and engaged to be married when they were grabbed from behind, stuffed into bags and taken away in North Korean boats from a secluded Japanese beach in 1978. They married in North Korea and had three children.
Mrs. Soga, who was abducted the same year from a secluded island in the East Sea/Japan Sea, married Charles Robert Jenkins of Rich Square, N.C., in 1980. Mr. Jenkins was stationed in South Korea in the 1960s and was listed as a deserter by the U.S. military.
Mrs. Soga's mother also disappeared and remained unaccounted for.
Earlier in Pyongyang, Mr. Jenkins, 62, and his two daughters, ages 19 and 17, saw off his wife at the airport and told a Japanese official traveling with the abducted Japanese that he had no desire to leave his adopted home.
Another Japanese official said Mr. Jenkins stood by the fence at the airport and waved to the plane as it departed. "He looked very lonely," she said.
The five were the only known survivors of 13 Japanese the North confirmed that its agents abducted to train communist spies in Japanese language and culture. Support groups say the number of victims could be as high as 60.
Their relatives complained bitterly that they were not allowed to return for good and that because they weren't allowed to bring their children, they would not be able to speak freely.


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