N. Korea's Spies Took Her in '77. Trump Wants to Help Find Answers

President to meet with parents of Japan's Megumi Yokota, snatched at age 13 to serve as tutor
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 13, 2017 12:39 PM CDT
Trump to Meet Parents of Teen Taken by North Korean Spies
In this undated file photo released by the Tokyo-based National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea, Megumi Yokota, then said to be 13 years old, is shown.   (AP Photo/National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea, File)

Forty years ago, a Japanese teen was abducted while walking home, one of at least 17 people kidnapped by North Korea in the '70s and '80s to serve as language and cultural tutors to the nation's spies. Now, President Trump has plans to meet with Megumi Yokota's parents when he visits Japan next month, with PM Shinzo Abe arranging the details, the Guardian reports. Trump had first mentioned Megumi during last month's UN General Assembly speech, in which he threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea if he had to. "We know it kidnapped a sweet 13-year-old Japanese girl from a beach in her own country to enslave her as a language tutor for North Korea's spies," Trump said then. Sakie Yokota told NK News "it's a big surprise to hear that President Trump is willing to meet us," adding via the Kyodo agency she was "thankful" to him for the gesture.

She and her husband, Shigeru, now in their 80s, didn't find out Megumi had been kidnapped by North Korea until 1997, when a defected spy spilled the story. They're hoping Trump's visit will pressure the North to offer up more info on those who were taken. Of the 17 Japanese officially listed as being abducted (activists say there could be up to a hundred more), five were released after Kim Jong Il admitted to the kidnappings in 2002; North Korea claimed four never made it across the border, while seven others died of sickness or in accidents. As for Megumi, the North said she'd taken her own life in 1994, though remains sent to Japan in 2004 didn't match Megumi's DNA. Per the New York Times, Megumi's parents met their 26-year-old North Korean-born granddaughter (Megumi's daughter) and great-grandchild at a secret 2014 meeting in Mongolia. (More North Korea stories.)

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