Former North Korean spy visits Japan
N. Korean's visit raises hopes on abductees
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Wednesday that the visit of a former North Korean spy could help resolve a decades-long mystery about the abduction of at least 17 Japanese citizens, an issue that is hindering normalization of ties between the two countries.
Kim Hyon Hui, who helped carry out the 1987 bombing of a South Korean airplane that killed 115 people, is meeting with family members of abductees during her tightly guarded trip to Japan.
The kidnappings were part of a plan by North Korea to teach its spies the Japanese language. When Kim and another agent boarded the Korean Air Boeing 707 that would explode next day in flight -- they planted a time bomb and got off in Abu Dhabi -- she used a Japanese passport. Her name: Mayumi Hachiya.
In 2002, North Korea acknowledged that it had abducted Japanese citizens, and five of them returned to Japan that October. It has said the others are dead, an assertion Japan disputes.
"I have strong expectations that this visit will lead to the freeing of the victims, even if only a single day sooner," Kan said.
Kim says it is possible she knew some of the Japanese abductees; however, she has lived in South Korea since her 1987 arrest and no longer has a direct link to Pyongyang. She was sentenced to death but received a pardon in 1990.
-- Chico Harlan
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