Hitomi Soga, who was abducted to North Korea in 1978 and spent 24 years there, talks to reporters in Sado, Niigata Prefecture, on Sept. 13. (Video footage by Takayuki Kakuno)

SADO, Niigata Prefecture--Abductee Hitomi Soga, reflecting on the 24 years she spent in North Korea, has a message for other Japanese being held against their will.

“Your father, mother, brother and sister are waiting for you. Please never give up about returning to your home. If you give up, I think that everything will come to an end.”

Soga, 58, gave a news conference here Sept. 13, during which she expressed her heartfelt gratitude for the support she has received since her return to Japan in October 2002.

“I was able to live my life thanks to the warm encouragement of neighbors, former classmates and people across Japan,” said Soga, a resident of Sado.

However, Soga said her heart still aches over the fate of her mother, Miyoshi Soga, who would now be 85. The pair were abducted together from Sado Island in August 1978. That was the last time Soga saw her.

“North Korea is different from Japan, so I can’t help stopping worrying about her. I cling to the hope that she hasn't given up hope of coming home and is living in good health,” Soga said.

After returning to Japan, Soga found work in a nursing home for elderly people.

She said the work often causes her to think about her mother as the people in her care often say they can't do what they used to be able to do.

"I really worry about my mother, who might face the same situation,” she said.

Soga was asked her thoughts about heightened international tensions over North Korea's recent nuclear test and repeated ballistic missile launches.

“It's really scary," she said. "But, I am facing a much bigger issue, the abductions, which weigh more heavily on me than the missile and nuclear issues.”

Under the leadership of the late Kim Jong Il, father of current leader Kim Jong Un, North Korea abducted Japanese nationals in the 1970s and '80s to train agents in Japanese customs and language.

The big breakthrough in the abduction issue for Japan came when Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi made a landmark visit to Pyongyang in September 2002. There, he met with Kim Jong Il, who acknowledged that North Korea had abducted 13 Japanese nationals. North Korea said eight had died and it had no record of other abductees.

Koizumi's visit led to the release of five abduction victims, including Soga, the following month. Her husband, a U.S. Army deserter who she met and married in North Korea, arrived in Japan two years later with the couple's two daughters.

The Japanese government believes that North Korea abducted at least 17 of its citizens.

In 2014, North Korea promised to reopen an investigation into the issue, but reneged after Japan imposed sanctions in 2016 to protest the country's nuclear and missile tests.

(This article was written by Yuji Hara and Daisuke Shimizu)