Monday, September 28, 2020

Shigeru Yokota, at forefront of efforts to rescue abducted Japanese, dies at 87

Jun 07. 2020
Shigeru Yokota and his wife, Sakie, give a lecture in Tsuruoka, Yamagata Prefecture, in June 2008. MUST CREDIT: Yomiuri Shimbun
Shigeru Yokota and his wife, Sakie, give a lecture in Tsuruoka, Yamagata Prefecture, in June 2008. MUST CREDIT: Yomiuri Shimbun
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By The Japan News-Yomiuri · No Author · NATIONAL, WORLD, OBITUARIES, ASIA-PACIFIC

Shigeru Yokota, father of Megumi Yokota, who was abducted by North Korea in 1977, died Friday. He was 87.

Since the formation in 1997 of the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea, he has been at the forefront of efforts to rescue the abductees. As a symbol of the abductees' families, he ardently appealed to public opinion and the Japanese government for a solution to the abduction issue for many years.

Megumi disappeared in Niigata in November 1977. At that time, she was 13 and in her first year of junior high school. Yokata then worked at the Bank of Japan's Niigata branch office.

For years, there were no clues as to what had happened to her. However, in January 1997, the testimonies of North Korean defectors pointed to the strong possibility that she had been abducted and taken to North Korea, prompting her father to form the association with seven other families in March of that year. He served as its representative until 2007.

At the first Japan-North Korea summit in September 2002, then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il admitted to the abductions and announced the deaths of eight people, including Megumi, but Shigeru told a press conference, "The death of my daughter is unacceptable."

To promote the rescue of the abductees, Shigeru has given more than 100 lectures a year with his wife, Sakie, now 84. He had visited all 47 prefectures in Japan and carried out signature-collecting campaigns on the streets.

In March 2014, a meeting with Megumi's daughter, Kim Eun-gyong, was arranged in Mongolia. Shigeru also met his 10-month-old great-granddaughter. After that, his decline in physical strength became noticeable, and he had been hospitalized since April 2018.

"Both my husband and I have worked hard to reunite with Megumi, who was abducted by North Korea. But my husband has not been able to see her and reached the end of his rope. I am in a state of being unable to organize my feelings now," Sakie said in a statement Friday.

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