Relatives of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea over the past 35 years and their supporters held a symposium in Tokyo on Sunday to urge the Japanese government to make greater efforts to resolve the issue.
The symposium, organized by the Association of Abductees' Relatives, was attended by around 2,000 people, including former abductee Hitomi Soga, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Jin Matsubara, the minister in charge of the abduction issue.
This month marks the 10th anniversary of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's landmark visit to Pyongyang, during which North Korea admitted to abducting Japanese citizens. Shortly after the summit, North Korea freed five abductees and said the rest had died.
At Sunday's meeting, the association handed Noda a petition with 9.33 million signatures, urging that the Japanese government do more to pressure North Korea to come clean on the fate of the remaining abductees, NHK reported.
Noda replied that the government will make utmost efforts through high-level government talks.
The abductees' relatives have been pressing the Noda administration to take advantage of the change of government in North Korea last December. Matsubara hinted last week that Japan might offer North Korea incentives in the form of food aid to resolve the issue.
Many older family members have expressed frustration and concern that as they get older, they will not be able to continue lobbying the government for much longer.
Sakie Yokota, at 76, is the youngest parent of an abductee. She told the symposium that she and her husband Shigeru and trying to stay as healthy as possible so that they can be reunited with their daughter Megumi before they die, NHK reported.
Earlier this year, Matsubara urged any living abductees not to give up hope of returning to their homeland in a shortwave broadcast by Free North Korea Radio, which is run by defectors from North Korea living in Seoul.© Japan Today/AFP