Japan-North Korea Relations

December 16, 2015

Steps Taken in Japan

1. Establishment of the “Headquarters for the Abduction Issue”

The first meeting of the Headquarters for the Abduction Issue (January 2013)

In January 2013, the Government of Japan established a new “Headquarters for the Abduction Issue” consisting of all Ministers of State, in order to discuss measures to address
the abductions issue and to promote strategic approaches and comprehensive measures for the resolution of this issue. The Headquarters is led by the Prime Minister serving as the head and the Minister of State for the Abduction Issue, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, and the Foreign Minister serve as the deputies. Individual Ministers closely collaborate with mainly the head and deputies and exert themselves to the utmost of their ability in their respective fields of responsibility towards the goal of resolving the abductions issue.

Moreover, the “Liaison Council of Government and Ruling and Opposition Parties Institutions for Measures against Abduction Issue” has been formed to strengthen bipartisan efforts towards the resolution of the abductions issue.

The Policy for the Resolution of the Abduction Issue

The abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea is an important issue concerning the sovereignty of Japan and the lives and safety of Japanese citizens and is a highly pressing issue that should be resolved as a responsibility of the national government of Japan. The Japanese Government stands firm with its policy that it is impossible to normalize diplomatic relations with North Korea without resolving the abduction issue, and it remains fully committed to demanding that North Korea take actions to assure the safety and immediate return to Japan of all victims, regardless of whether or not they are specifically identified as victims of abduction by the government. The Government of Japan also continues to pursue the truth about abduction cases and the handing over of suspects. (“Policy and specific measures toward resolving the abduction issue” adopted by the Headquarters for the Abduction Issue on January 25, 2013.)

2. Investigations by the Government of Japan

The Government of Japan, with the continuous cooperation from the returned abduction victims, has been thoroughly investigating the cases of abduction by North Korea as well as the cases of disappearances in which the possibility of abduction by North Korean agents cannot be ruled out. As a result of such investigations, the Government of Japan has so far identified 12 separate incidents involving a total of 17 Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea.

The National Police Agency of Japan determined that a case in which an elder sister and younger brother of North Korean nationality were abducted from Japan (two victims) is also a suspected abduction case committed by North Korea. They have also issued arrest warrants for 11 suspects including North Korean agents, who were involved in abduction cases, to make them wanted and subject to arrest internationally.

Furthermore, regarding the investigations into the disappearances in which the possibility of abduction by North Korean agents cannot be ruled out, Japanese authorities have been striving to reveal the truth behind these cases by reinforcing their efforts, including 1) the installation of a Special Guidance Section in the Foreign Affairs Division of the National Police Agency in March 2013 to conduct supervision and coordination between prefectural police departments, 2) the recovery of physical evidence from family members for DNA testing, and 3) the posting of information on the websites of the National Police Agency and prefectural police departments, including a list of the people who are involved in the cases in which the possibility of abduction by North Korean agents cannot be ruled out in their disappearance. In addition, by enhancing their partnership, the Police and Japan Coast Guard have been collectively reinvestigating cases that were originally handled as marine accidents.

Case name Suspected Abduction Case Involving a Japanese Woman in Europe (12) Ushitsu Case (1) Suspected Abduction Case Involving a Couple (in Fukui) (6) / Sin Kwang-Su Case (11)
Suspect Kimihiro Uomoto
(a.k.a. Abe, former family name)
Kim Se-Ho Sin Kwang-Su
Case name Sin Kwang-Su Case (11) Suspected Abduction Case Involving a Mother and Daughter (9) Suspected Abduction Case Involving a Couple (in Niigata) (7)
Suspect Kim Kil-Uk (Commonly known as)
Kim Myong-Suk
(Commonly known as)
Choi Sun-Chol
Case name Suspected Abduction Case Involving a Couple (in Niigata) (7) Suspected Abduction Case Involving two Siblings
Suspect (Commonly known as)
Han Geum-Nyeong
(Commonly known as)
Kim Nam-Jin
Yoko Kinoshita
a.k.a. Hong Suhye
Case name Suspected Abduction Case Involving Japanese Males in Europe (10)
Suspect Yoriko Mori Sakiko Wakabayashi
(Maiden name: Kuroda)

3. Enforcement of the “Law Concerning Measures to Address the Abduction Issue and Other North Korean Human Rights Violations” (June 2006)

This Act was promulgated and came into effect on June 23, 2006 with the purpose of increasing awareness among Japanese nationals of the abductions issue and other human rights violations committed by North Korean authorities. In cooperation with the international community, the law also aims to elicit a full account of the situation surrounding the abductions issue and to prevent abductions from happening again in the future. In addition to laying out the responsibilities of the Government of Japan in resolving the abductions issue, this law holds national and local governments responsible for raising awareness of the issue and to this end establishes North Korean Human Rights Abuses Awareness Week (December 10 – 16), which calls on national and local governments to hold educational events on the topic during this week. In particular, during this week, many conferences, symposia, and concerts are held by governments and NGOs to advocate the resolution of the abductions issue both inside and outside of Japan.

Posters distributed nationwide

4. Actions against North Korea

On July 5, 2006, North Korea launched seven ballistic missiles. Since then, despite repeated warnings from the international community, Pyongyang again launched ballistic missiles in April 2009, April 2012 and December 2012. It also carried out nuclear tests in October 2006, May 2009 and February 2013. In addition, in March 2010, North Korea launched a torpedo attack on an ROK naval vessel. In response, the Government of Japan protested firmly, expressing the strong condemnation of these North Korean actions, and imposed a series of measures against North Korea. In addition to the multilateral ones set out in the UN Security Council resolutions, Japan requested its own citizens to refrain from traveling to North Korea, banned the entry of North Korean nationals into Japan and of North Korean flagged ships into Japanese ports and also, prohibited export and import with North Korea.

Based on what was agreed in May 2014, Japan lifted restrictions on visits of persons, special measures of restriction on North Korea regarding the amount of money requiring notification of the export of means of payments and report on the money transfer, and the embargo on the entry of North Korea flagged ships with humanitarian purpose into Japanese ports. However, Japan continues to enforce sanctions based on the UN Security Council and other unilateral measures, including the prohibition of export and import with North Korea.