Outline and Background of Abduction Cases of Japanese Nationals by North Korea

April 2002

1. Outline of Individual Cases

There are a total of eight cases, involving 11 Japanese nationals, of suspected abductions by North Korea. Each of them is outlined as follows:

(1) "Ushitsu Case" of 1977 arrest by Ishikawa Prefectural Police
On 19 September 1977, a North Korean resident in Japan allegedly took a Japanese male residing in Tokyo to a beach near Ushitsu on the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture and handed him over to North Korean agents waiting there aboard a North Korean spy ship. On the following day, 20 September, Ishikawa Prefectural Police arrested the North Korean resident and confiscated a table of random numbers, a code book and other items, which police believed substantiated his suspected spying activities.

(2) Missing Case of a Junior High School Girl in Niigata Prefecture in 1977
On 15 November 1977, a junior high school girl in Niigata Prefecture went missing after she said goodbye to her friend on their way home from extracurricular activities at her school.

(3) Missing Case of a Japanese Couple in Obama City in Fukui Prefecture in 1978
On 7 July 1978, a Japanese man who went missing left his home in Obama City, Fukui Prefecture, in a light truck, saying he had a date, but never returned home. His truck was later found with the ignition key on. The woman whom he said he was supposed to meet did not come home either after leaving her home, saying she had a date. They seemed to be very happy about their forthcoming marriage. There were no reasons to suspect that they had killed themselves.

(4) Missing Case of a Japanese Couple in Kashiwazaki in Nigata Prefecture in 1978
On 31 July 1978, a Japanese man living in Kashiwazaki City, Niigata Prefecture left his home by bicycle. He told his family that he was going out just for a while, but never returned. His bicycle was later found in front of a library in the city. A woman, who was working at a cosmetics store, told her colleague that she was going on a date with him after work. She did not come home, either. There were no reasons or motives for them to run away from homes. y 2

(5) Missing Case of a Japanese Couple in Kagoshima Prefecture in 1978
On 12 August 1978, a man in Kagoshima Prefecture failed to return home after telling his family that he was going to the beach to see the sunset with his partner. Two days later, his car was found at the seaside campground, with the doors locked. The woman also left her home, telling her family that she was going to the beach with him to see the sunset, and never returned home.

(6) "Shin Gwang-Su" Case in 1980
A Japanese man living in Osaka was allegedly abducted and taken aboard a ship near Aoshima Beach in Miyazaki Prefecture in 1980. Shin Gwang-Su, who was arrested in South Korea in 1985 on charges of spying for North Korea, is believed to have had a direct role in the suspected abduction case.

(7) "Lee Un-Hae" Case
Kim Hyon Hui, a North Korean offender convicted for the 1987 bombing of a Korean Airlines jet (see Note below), told South Korean authorities a Japanese woman, called "Lee Un-Hae," taught her the Japanese language in North Korea. Japanese police announced in May 1991 that they had reached the decision on the basis of their investigation there was a very high probability that the Japanese language teacher mentioned by Kim Hyon Hui was a Japanese woman from Saitama Prefecture who had been listed missing.

(Note) On 29 November 1987, Korean Airlines Flight 858, bound for Seoul from Baghdad via Abu Dhabi and Bangkok, crashed over the area of the Bay of Bengal after a time-bomb placed on the plane exploded, killing all the 115 passengers and crew aboard.

(8) Missing Case of Miss Keiko Arimoto in Europe
Around October 1983, Miss Keiko Arimoto, who was studying in Britain, went missing after sending a letter to her family from Copenhagen, Denmark. Later, a Japanese man who also went missing after visiting Europe said in a letter to his family in Japan that he and two other Japanese, including Miss Arimoto, were staying in North Korea.

2. Developments in Japan-North Korea Talks

(1) 1991-1992

  1. In May 1991, at the Third Meeting of the Normalization Talks between Japan and North Korea, the Japanese side raised the case of "Lee Un-Hae." The North Koreans reacted strongly against it, charging that it was "an insult to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and an act to destroy the bilateral talks."

  2. Although the working-level consultations on the issue of Lee Un-Hae had been taking place, the North Korean side, in November 1992, during the working-level consultations at the eighth meeting of the Normalization Talks, refused to listen to the Japanese side's assertion about the issue and left the consultations unilaterally, thereby leading to the suspension of the Normalization Talks themselves.

(2) 1997-1998

  1. At the deputy Director-General minister-level preliminary talks in August 1997 to prepare for the resumption of the Normalization Talks and again at the first meeting of the Japan-North Korea Red Cross Meeting in September 1997, Japan raised the issue of the suspected abductions. The North Korean side categorically denied its alleged part in the suspected abductions.

  2. At the request of the delegation of Japan's ruling coalition parties in November 1997, North Korea replied that it would "look into the matter as a simple case of missing persons." In responding to this reply, the Japanese side, at the second meeting of the Japan-North Korea Red Cross Meeting in December 1997, strongly urged the North Korean side to conduct the investigation in earnest and take specific action toward the settlement of the issue. The North Korean side pledged to carry out the investigation and convey the result to Japan, while insisting that its government had absolutely no part in the suspected abductions.

  3. In June 1998, a spokesman for the North Korean Red Cross announced that as a result of its investigation, none of the 10 missing Japanese nationals whom Japanese law-enforcement authorities suspect had been taken to North Korea through the seven suspected abduction cases were found to be residing in North Korea. In August, the bilateral talks were suspended following North Korea's ballistic missile launch.

(3) 1999-Present

  1. In December 1999, in response to a request by a mission of Japanese parliamentarians (the so-called Murayama mission), North Korea said it was ready to "continue the investigation as the case of missing persons." Based on this response, the Japanese side presented at the subsequent Japan-North Korea Red Cross Talks, a list of Japanese nationals believed to have been abducted, renewing the request for the investigation. The North Korean side, in consideration of the Japanese proposal, promised to instruct the organization concerned to conduct a thorough investigation. In addition, at the following preliminary talks for preparations for the resumption of the Normalization Talks, the Japanese side pointed out the issue of the suspected abductions could not be skirted in seeking to improve the Japan-North Korea relations, pressing North Korea to respond in good faith.

  2. At the Japan-North Korea Red Cross Talks held in March 2000, the North Korean side informed the Japanese side that the organization concerned began a thorough investigation into the case of missing persons as requested by Japan. North Korea further promised that if any of the missing persons were found in the country, it would make a report to Japan and take appropriate measures.

  3. In April 2000, at the meeting in Pyongyang of the Japan-North Korea Normalization Talks, resumed after a hiatus of about seven and a half years, Japan once again pointed out that addressing the suspected abductions could not be avoided in order to seek improved relations between Japan and North Korea, calling for North Korea's good faith. In response, the North Koreans asserted they would hold no further dialogue with Japan if Japan kept using the term "abductions."

  4. In August 2000, the second meeting after the resumption of the Japan-North Korea Normalization Talks was held in Japan. The Japanese side repeated that both sides could not avoid addressing the issue of the suspected abductions, expressing the hope that North Korea would steadily conduct a "thorough investigation" and come up with convincing results. The North Korean side again dismissed the suspected abductions as impossible, insisting the issue should not be a topic at the Normalization Talks. At the same time, however, the North Koreans explained that the North Korean Red Cross, in cooperation with the authorities concerned, was conducting a "thorough investigation of the missing persons" in line with the Japan-North Korea agreement.

  5. On 27 December 2001, the North Korean Red Cross announced the total suspension of the investigation into the "missing persons" requested by Japan. In response, Japan expressed regret over North Korea's suspension of the investigation as totally unacceptable.

  6. On 11 March 2002, the National Police Agency officially announced that there were suspicions that Miss Keiko Arimoto had been abducted by North Korea. On 22 March, the North Korean Red Cross made a statement that North Korea had "never kidnapped or abducted her to North Korea." It also said it had decided to "continue the investigation into the 'missing persons'," adding that it was ready to hold the Japan-North Korea Red Cross Talks. On the same day, Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said in a statement that Japan could not accept the claim of the North Korean Red Cross denying the suspicion about the abduction of Ms. Keiko Arimoto. On the other hand, Foreign Minister Kawaguchi recognized the resumption of the investigation into the case of the 'missing persons' as a positive movement responding to Japan's strong request for the resumption since the end of last year and expressed that the Japan-North Korea Red Cross Talks were one of the signs of North Korea's movements responding to Japan's repeated calls for talks between Japan and North Korea.


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