Japan to decide livelihood support for abductees

Japan to decide livelihood support for abductees
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe receives a petition from members of abduction issue groups at his official residence in Tokyo July 4, 2014. Japan decided on Thursday to ease some sanctions on North Korea in return for its reopening of a probe into the fate of Japanese citizens abducted by the reclusive state decades ago, as a fresh report emerged that some of them were alive.

The government has compiled livelihood support measures in preparation for the possible return of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea.

The package of remedial measures centers on a lump-sum payment of national pension benefits. It is set to be officially decided at a Tuesday meeting of the government's headquarters for the abduction issue, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at the Prime Minister's Office, government sources said.

Under the new measures, if abductees who return to Japan are aged 65 or older, the government will issue a lump-sum payment equivalent to the amount of national pension benefits they likely would have received after turning 65.

Returned abductees are currently paid an allowance for 10 years if they express their intention to live permanently in Japan. The new measures would add to that a regional allowance if they reside in major cities where living expenses are higher.

The government plans to help abductees and family members who accompany them to Japan to secure employment. As for relatives who remain in North Korea, the government intends to financially support visits to Japan to receive medical treatment for illness or injuries.

Given that abductees are aging, new benefits based on the average income of a typical elderly household will be issued for abductees aged 60 or older and their spouses. The prospective recipients will include foreign spouses, so US citizen Charles Jenkins, 74, will be eligible to receive the benefits. Jenkins is the husband of former abductee Hitomi Soga, 55.

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