TOKYO — Shigeo Iizuka, whose sister was abducted by North Korean agents 39 years ago, thanked U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday for meeting with him and the relatives of other abductees, and expressed hope it will lead to a breakthrough in obtaining their freedom.

Iizuka, 79, and relatives of seven other abductees met with the visiting U.S. president and sought his help in bringing their loved ones home.

Japan says North Korea snatched at least 17 people in the 1970s and ’80s to train its spies in Japanese culture and language so they could pass as Japanese and spy on South Korea. North Korea has acknowledged abducting 13 of them and allowed five to visit Japan. All five stayed instead of returning to North Korea. The North says the other eight have died, without providing convincing proof.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made the return off all of the abductees a top policy goal. There has been no sign of progress as tensions have grown because of North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs.

Here are brief stories of some of the abducted people whose families met Trump on Monday:


MEGUMI YOKOTA, a 13-year-old student when she was abducted 40 years ago.

Megumi is widely known for a photo of her in a school uniform standing under a row of cherry trees in full bloom when she entered junior high school. She didn’t return home from badminton practice on Nov. 15, 1977, one day after giving her father a comb for his birthday. The Japanese government says she was confined in a compartment on a boat for nearly two days, where she cried “Mother” and scratched the wall until her nails almost broke off. North Korea says she married a man abducted from South Korea and had a daughter, but later killed herself.


YAEKO TAGUCHI, a 22-year-old bar hostess when she was abducted 39 years ago.

Taguchi disappeared in June 1978, leaving behind a 16-month-old son and a 3-year-old daughter at a childcare center in downtown Tokyo. She was presumably on her way to the center from her job where she was working to raise the children as a divorced mother. The baby boy was adopted by Taguchi’s brother, Shigeo Iizuka, and the girl was adopted by an aunt. Years later, during the trial of North Korean agent Kim Hyon Hui, who was convicted of bombing a Korean Air flight in 1987, Kim said she was trained in Japanese language and culture by a woman Japanese authorities believe was Taguchi. North Korea has told Japan that Taguchi was killed in a car accident.


MIYOSHI SOGA, a 46-year-old homemaker when she was abducted 39 years ago.

Soga disappeared with her 19-year-old daughter, Hitomi, when they went grocery shopping on Sado Island, in northern Japan in August 1978. North Korea later arranged Hitomi’s marriage to Charles Jenkins, an American army deserter who had crossed from South Korea to North Korea in 1965. Hitomi is one of five abductees who were allowed to return to Japan in 2002, but her mother’s whereabouts is still unknown. Her current age is 85.


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MARI YAMAGUCHI
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