Reuter, Oct. 28, 2002
Welcomed back with tears and flowers, five Japanese kidnapped a quarter of a century ago by North Korea have hardly been out of the public eye since returning home for an emotional visit nearly two weeks ago.
Yasushi Chimura proudly held up for the cameras a fish he had caught, while Kaoru Hasuike drank beer with his mates and Hitomi Soga met with schoolfriends to sing their old school song.
But as the fuss and bustle of this very public reunion winds down, the abductees must brace for a painful choice between two nations: North Korea, where their lives and children are, and the native Japan they were snatched from 24 years ago.
The situation changed drastically last week when the Japanese government said the abductees would extend their visit past October 28, the tentatively set date for their departure, and Tokyo would press for their children to join them in Japan.
The government, which flew the abductees home, had said that it would respect their wishes, and those of their families, as to whether they would live in Japan permanently.
But with many of the abductees non-committal about a longer stay, impassioned pleas to the government by families and friends appear to have won out.
These pleas are likely, at the very least, to have upped the pressure on the abductees.
Hasuike spent five hours arguing with friends who said they had come to try and “stop him from returning to the North.”
In widely carried accounts, as told by his older brother, Hasuike finally snapped: “I tried hard during the last 24 years. You’re not telling me they were wasted, are you? Are you trying to brainwash me?”
Soga, who is married to Charles Robert Jenkins, a former U.S. soldier who defected to North Korea in 1965, said at first that she wanted to return to discuss the matter with him. She later released a statement saying she was surprised at the government decision, Japanese media said.
Although family members have expressed pleasure at the government’s move, the other abductees have said little.
Some observers say this is inevitable, as they cannot speak honestly as long as their children remain behind, and that their families are carrying out the fight that they cannot.
Indeed, many of the abductees cited concern for their North Korean-born children as a reason to return to North Korea. Many of the children, in their late teens and early 20s, have no idea of their heritage.
“We are worried about our children,” Chimura, who was dating Fukie Hamamoto when they were abducted and married her in North Korea, told a news conference. “From birth, they have received a socialist education and do not know their parents are Japanese.
“I was not sure how they would handle the shock when they found out the truth, so only the two of us came back this time.”
Chimura said the two, who told their three children they were travelling, are still deciding how to explain the situation.
Returning to Japan, a “home” they have not seen for nearly a quarter of a century, would be a difficult decision for the abductees, who experts say were probably subjected to mind control techniques similar to those used by cults.
It would be far worse for their children, born and raised in the reclusive totalitarian state.