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Ex-abductee of N. Korea concerned over public's waning interest in issue

Hitomi Soga speaks during a news conference in Sado, Niigata Prefecture, on Sept. 13, 2017. (Mainichi)

SADO, Niigata -- Hitomi Soga, a victim of North Korean abduction who returned to Japan in 2002, expressed frustration over the abduction issue not advancing, while feeling that Japanese people's interest in the matter has waned.

    The 58-year-old former abductee held a news conference in the Niigata Prefecture city of Sado where she now lives ahead of the 15th anniversary of her return to Japan. She was abducted by North Korea in 1978. Her mother, Miyoshi, now 85, was also kidnapped by North Korean agents and has not returned.

    With regard to Pyongyang's recent activities including missile launches and nuclear tests, Soga said she felt uneasy about them and they were "very frightening." At the same time, she added, "But to me, the abduction issue is much larger than their nuclear arms and missiles. I don't care how, but I want all the abductees to come home with no further delay."

    Meanwhile, Soga expressed concerns about waning public interest in the abduction issue, saying that she was finding it more difficult to collect signatures to submit to the Japanese government than before when she stands on the streets to ask for signatures. She says while many people know about North Korean abductions, they show "less willingness to help compared to before."

    Soga has been holding talks at elementary and junior high schools about the abduction issue for many years. She says she is eager to continue, even though students who now participate in her events were mostly born after she returned to Japan, as they would show great interest in her story.

    Soga now works as an assistant nurse at a nursing home in Sado. She says she worries about her mother when she takes care of elderly residents who are close to her mother's age.

    "I want government officials to imagine how they would feel if their family disappeared," Soga said during the news conference. "I hope that the government will put more effort than ever (into solving the abduction issue)."

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