Shigeru Yokota, whose daughter Megumi was abducted to North Korea in 1977 and who played a central role in Japan’s efforts to pressure Pyongyang to release more victims, has died of old age at age 87, sources close to his family said June 5.
Yokota worked for more than two decades with family members of other abduction victims in pressing the government to rescue their children and siblings, who they believe are still alive in the North.
Megumi was 13 when she disappeared on her way home from school in 1977. At the time, the family were living in Niigata Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast after Yokota, then employed by the Bank of Japan, was transferred to a local branch of the central bank.
Yokota and his wife Sakie, along with seven other families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents, formed a group in March 1997 that has worked tirelessly to raise public awareness of the abduction issue.
They are hoping the abductees will be released even as relations between Japan and North Korea worsen due to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapon and missile programs.
Yokota served as the group’s chief for more than 10 years until November 2007, when he resigned due to health reasons. He died of old age at around 3 p.m. on June 5.
“My husband and I did our best together, but he passed before seeing Megumi again. I’m at a loss right now,” Sakie, 84, said in a statement also signed by their sons, Takuya and Tetsuya. (Kyodo)