Photo/IllutrationSakie Yokota, mother of Megumi, who was abducted by North Korean agents in 1977, speaks at a news conference in Kawasaki on Nov. 14, the eve of the 41st anniversary of her daughter's disappearance. (Shigetaka Kodama)

  • Photo/Illustraion

KAWASAKI--The mother of high-profile abductee Megumi Yokota renewed her call Nov. 14 for the Japanese government to bring about the return of all victims.

The plea by Sakie Yokota came on the eve of the 41st anniversary of her daughter's disappearance.

“Japan needs to be serious about resolving the issue,” Yokota, 82, said at a news conference here. “It is unforgivable to leave it outstanding.”

Megumi was 13 years old and on her way home from school in Niigata in 1977 when she was snatched by North Korean agents.

She is a symbol of the fate of Japanese nationals abducted in the 1970s and 1980s when North Korea wanted to train its agents in Japanese culture, customs and language.

The Japanese government estimates that at least 17 of its citizens were taken to North Korea. Five were allowed to leave after spending decades there. North Korea said Megumi had died.

Megumi’s father, Shigeru, turned 86 on Nov. 14. He remains hospitalized but is sufficiently stable to have simple exchanges, according to Yokota. He utters “rachi” (abduction) occasionally and replies “Yes” with a nod when she asks if he wants to know about progress in the abduction issue.

Referring to the fact that the families of abductees are now old and some have already died, Yokota said: “We must not have our children’s generation take over the rescue efforts. They have jobs and we should not inflict such undue hardships on them.”

Reflecting on the past 41 years of heartbreak, Yokota recalled that Megumi was an upbeat and cheerful child who made everybody laugh.

"Then she was suddenly taken away crying, and we were told that ‘your daughter is dead.’ Still, we, the parents, have never stopped believing that Megumi is alive. We have no other choice.”

Megumi would have turned 54 in October. “I just want her to come home, nothing more,” the mother said.

Asked about what she would say to Megumi now, Yokota said: “I have never stopped talking to her. So I don’t know if I have anything left to say ... but to please stay healthy. Otherwise, she won’t be able to come home.”