Ex-agent believes Taguchi is alive

BUSAN, South Korea (Kyodo) Former North Korean agent Kim Hyon Hui, meeting Wednesday with the son and brother of abductee Yaeko Taguchi, said she believes Taguchi is still alive.

“I have no doubt your mother is still alive,” Kim, who is believed to have learned Japanese from Taguchi, told them in Japanese.

The meeting between Kim and Shigeo Iizuka, 70, and Koichiro Iizuka, 32, was organized by the Japanese and South Korean governments at the request of the Iizukas and Kim.

During the meeting at the Busan Exhibition and Convention Center, Kim told Koichiro Iizuka he looks “just like (his) mother” and apologized for being unable to meet him sooner.

Kim was sentenced to death in Seoul for planting the bomb that downed a South Korean airliner in 1987, killing all 115 people aboard. She later got a presidential pardon. This is the first time she has met kin of a Japanese abductee.

In tears, she hugged Koichiro Iizuka, who was 1 year old when his mother was seized in Japan by Pyongyang’s state’s agents. The two sides also exchanged gifts before going into their closed-door meeting.

“By establishing a relationship of trust with Kim, we may be able to get more information about the abduction issue,” said the elder Iizuka, who heads a group representing relatives of Japanese abductees.

Taguchi, kidnapped in June 1978 when she was 22, is one of at least a dozen Japanese abducted by North Korea who remain missing, according to the Japanese government.

North Korea has admitted abducting her but says she died in July 1986. Japan disputes this claim based on information Taguchi may have married a South Korean abductee sometime after 1986.

Koichiro Iizuka, an engineer at an information technology company in Tokyo, said he has no memory of his mother. He was raised by Shigeo Iizuka and his wife.