Ex-abductee opens up on years in North Korea

Kaoru Hasuike, left, and his wife, Yukiko, at a press conference in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefectur.

JAPAN - Former abductee Kaoru Hasuike has written a book that reveals the despair he went through during his 24 years trapped in North Korea, and how his family inspired him to keep living.

Monday marked 10 years since Hasuike and four other abductees returned to Japan. The book, titled "Rachi to Ketsudan" (Abduction and Determination), was published by Shinchosha Co. Wednesday.

Hasuike, 55, was abducted by North Korean agents on the beach of Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, in July 1978. At first, stricken with fear and bewilderment, all he could do was scream, "Let me go home!" As it became clear there was little chance he could return home, thoughts of suicide crept into his mind.

Detained in a so-called guesthouse in a valley, watched by security guards and surrounded by barbed wire, he was shown anti-Japan movies by North Korean officials who served as supervisors and instructors. Hasuike was forced to read a collection of papers written by Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea.

Hasuike said he found a glimmer of hope amid this despair in May 1980 when he got married to Yukiko, who was abducted with him. They eventually had a daughter and a son. "The children became our reason for living," Hasuike said.

Hasuike and his wife, 56, even lied to their children that the couple were "Koreans who returned from Japan," so the children would not suffer discrimination in the future. The children were strictly taught North Korean etiquette. When they turned 6, the children were taken to a dormitory about 150 kilometers away.

At the time, many North Koreans were starving to death due to severe food shortages. Corn was the staple food at the children's dormitory. When they returned to the dormitory after spending a summer vacation at home, Hasuike made them take soybeans because he was concerned about whether they were getting enough nutrition. "Make sure you eat five or six soybeans twice a day after counting them," he told his children.

Hasuike, who was involved in translation work, was torn while he rewrote Japanese newspaper articles in Korean.

Usually, abduction-related stories were blacked out. But one day, he accidentally came across a photo that was not censored. The photo was for a story on the formation in Japan of an association of abductees' relatives in March 1997.

In the photo, his father was tightly holding a portrait of Hasuike from his high school graduation album. His father's hair had thinned. Standing behind him was Hasuike's mother, who wore a tense expression. "They're alive," Hasuike recalled thinking.

This "reunion" with his parents after 20 years apart made Hasuike feel lonely, and he had to fight for breath.

The Hasuikes and three other abductees returned to Japan for real reunions on Oct. 15, 2002. The couple's children followed them to Japan in May 2004. The two children have found jobs and Hasuike leads a fulfilling life working as a translator. But other abductees who have yet to be returned are constantly in the back of his mind.

Hasuike is optimistic about Japan's future relations with North Korea.

"North Korea is hoping to improve ties with Japan," he said. "If the government does it well right now, I think it's possible [bilateral relations] will move forward."

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