June 30, 2006

S.Korean family mum on North abductee story

By Jack Kim

KOSONG, South Korea (Reuters) - The family of a South
Korean taken to the North 28 years ago spoke on Friday of their
emotional reunion but were silent about his contested comments
on life in one of the world's most reclusive states.

Kim Young-nam, the man at the center of a high-profile
kidnapping case, a day earlier sparked skepticism in the South
and anger in Japan with his tale of how he inadvertently ended
up in the North and how his first wife -- a Japanese kidnapped
when a teenager by North Korea -- had committed suicide.

"Thanks to the great interest from all of you, I was able
to see the brother I missed so much," his sister Kim Young-ja
told reporters in Kosong, on the east coast of South Korea,
just south of the border.

But Kim's family wanted to focus on the three days they had
spent with their long-lost relative, not the controversy and
ignored questions about his explanations over what had happened
since he disappeared from South Korea in 1978.

On their departure in North Korea, Kim carried his mother
Choi Kye-wol, 82, on to a bus bound for the South, shedding
tears as his relatives drove away.


The major South Korean daily JoongAng Ilbo said Kim's story
about making his way to the North after falling asleep while
drifting in a row boat was "utter nonsense."

"His kidnapping is a fact, confirmed by a spy who has been
arrested in the South after being dispatched here on a
mission," it wrote in an editorial on Friday.

Several South Korean dailies pressed the South Korean
government to correct Kim's story and demand North Korea
apologize for abducting hundreds of its citizens.

And the Japanese government said it was difficult to
believe Kim's assertion that his first wife -- Megumi Yokota --
had committed suicide. His second wife, their small son and his
daughter believed to be by Yokota joined Kim at the reunion.

Tokyo has been feuding with Pyongyang over the fate of
Japanese citizens abducted decades ago and says diplomatic ties
cannot be established until its questions are answered clearly.

Kim's remarks about his wife killing herself reflected the
official North Korean position that Yokota and seven other
Japanese abducted in the 1970s and 1980s died of illness,
accidents or committed suicide.

But Megumi's parents and the Japanese government have cast
doubt on the suicide claim. Her case has been the focus of
Japanese anger at North Korea for abducting its citizens.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe told reporters
in Tokyo on Thursday that Japan wanted to keep negotiating with
Pyongyang on the premise all the abductees were still alive.

"It is not possible in North Korea to speak one's own
mind," he said.