Shigeru Yokota, a Japanese campaigner for the return of his daughter and over twelve others who were abducted to North Korea in the 1970s, has died. He was 87.
His family said Yokota died of natural causes inside a hospital in Kawasaki, near Tokyo, on Friday, before he surely could meet his daughter again.
He passed before seeing Megumi again, though “My husband and I did our best together. Now I’m at a loss,” his wife Sakie, 84, said in a statement.
Megumi disappeared in 1977 in her way home from her a junior high school in Niigata on Japan’s northern coast when she was 13. It was the day after she gave her father a comb as a birthday gift, a memento he always carried with him.
A former Central Bank official, Yokota, and his wife kept looking for Megumi and found out 20 years later that she was abducted to North Korea by its agents.
In 1997, Yokota founded a group with some other abduction victims’ families and headed it for any decade. The smiling and soft-spoken Yokota took over as the face of the campaign that eventually gained government backing.
The Yokotas had traveled around Japan carrying their daughter’s photos. A graphic of any innocent-looking teenager inside a school uniform became a rallying cry for cause.
After years of denial, North Korea in 2002 acknowledged abducting 13 Japanese. Japan maintains how the North abducted at least 17 men and women to train agents in Japanese culture and language to spy on rival South Korea.
Five of your abductees were permitted to return home for a visit later that year and get since stayed. North Korea says eight others, including Megumi, had denies and died that the other four entered its territory. Their families and also the Japanese government disagree.
North Korea sent examples of what it said were Megumi’s ashes but DNA examination from the Japanese government showed these folks were not hers and were blended with non-human remains.
In 2014, the Yokotas traveled to Mongolia to meet a daughter Megumi gave birth to in North Korea, but Megumi was not there.
North and Japan Korea have zero diplomatic ties, and efforts to solve the abductions have since largely stalled. Many elderly relatives say they’re not having enough time to see their family and friends.
He continued to make public appearances though did not speak in public for the last four years, although yokota stepped down as the group’s leader in 2007 due to declining health.
“I’m filled with regret and sadness that we haven’t been able to create (Megumi) back,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters Friday. He renewed his pledge to give the abductees home.