North Korea List of Japanese Abductees Has Some 30 Names

(Reuters) -

North Korea has given Japan a list of some 30 missing Japanese still living in the country, Japan’s Nikkei daily reported on Thursday, citing sources — three times as many names as the paper reported a week ago.

The list includes known victims of North Korean state-sponsored kidnappings in the 1970s and 80s — believed to have been snatched to train spies — and, as of Wednesday, Tokyo had matched about two-thirds of them with domestic records of missing persons, the Nikkei said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made the abductees’ fate a focus of his political career, and proof that some of them are alive would almost certainly boost his popularity.

Pyongyang admitted in 2002 to kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens, and five of those abductees and their families later returned to Japan. North Korea said that the remaining eight were dead and that the issue was closed.

In 2008, Pyongyang promised to reopen the investigation into the status of Japanese abductees but it never followed through.

North Korea agreed in May to reopen the investigation, prompting Japan, on July 3, to ease some sanctions in return.