N.Korean ex-spy in Japan to meet abductees' families
It is hoped that Kim Hyon-Hui will shed light on the fate of those abducted. - AFP
TOKYO - A former North Korean spy who once blew up a Korean Air passenger jet visited Japan under tight security Tuesday to meet the families of people who were abducted by Pyongyang's agents.
Relatives of the kidnap victims hope that Kim Hyon-Hui, 48, will shed light on the fate of their loved ones, who were snatched in the 1970s and 80s to teach Japanese language and culture to the communist regime's spies.
Kim, as an agent for Pyongyang, in 1987 blew up a Korean passenger jet, killing all 115 people aboard. She was caught in Bahrain and sentenced to death in South Korea two years later, but received a presidential pardon.
On her Japan visit she was to meet relatives of some of the disappeared - including the parents of Megumi Yokota, who was 13 when she was taken by North Korean agents in 1977 on her way home from school.
Kim had said in the past that she had once seen Megumi, whose case has become an emblem of Japan's efforts to press North Korea to disclose complete and verifiable accounts of its abduction activities.
"We hope this will be a step toward clarifying what actually happened in the abductions, and to save the surviving victims," said Japan's top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku.
"We hope this will serve as an opportunity for the public to again take a special interest in this blatant violation of basic human rights and the breach of Japan's national sovereignty."
The former spy was also due to meet relatives of Yaeko Taguchi, who disappeared in Tokyo at age 22 and who, Kim has said, taught her Japanese in North Korea as part of Kim's intelligence officer training.
North Korea in 2001 came clean on 13 abductions of Japanese nationals. It allowed five victims to return home but said eight more, including Megumi, had died - a claim Japan has rejected.
Japan insists North Korea is still hiding survivors and has abducted more people than it admits, in a dispute that has also proved a stumbling block in talks to end Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme.
Kim arrived at dawn Tuesday amid tight security on a government-chartered flight from South Korea, where she lives, and was ushered to a vehicle while guards shielded her from view with large umbrellas.
She was then driven to the summer house of former prime minister Yukio Hatoyama, who resigned early last month, in the mountain resort of Karuizawa northwest of Tokyo.
Japanese officials refused to disclose Kim's itinerary, citing security and the wishes of Kim and the South Korean government.
Justice Minister Keiko Chiba had issued a special permit for her to enter Japan, because Japanese immigration law denies entry to foreign nationals who have been sentenced to one year or more in jail.
Critics have questioned why a convicted terrorist has been granted special permission to visit Japan, when she is not likely to possess significant new information about the kidnappings.
But Sengoku defended the decision, saying it was important for the families to hear directly from Kim about the lives of their loved ones and about the reclusive communist state of North Korea.
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