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Reward offered for missing Japanese woman

A reward is being offered for information on a Japanese woman who went missing here over a year ago, a marriage consulting firm said Monday.

Eriko Tanahashi, a devoted fan of “hallyu,” or the Korean Wave, star Ryu Si-won, was last seen in January 2010 after planning to visit a filming location of her favorite drama, “Winter Sonata.”

The firm, Sunoo, is offering 10 million won ($8,860) for information on the whereabouts of Tanahashi, who was 58 at the time of her disappearance.

The mother of three arrived alone in Korea on Dec. 28, 2009, and checked into a hotel in southern Seoul as a nine-day vacation gift from her daughters.
Eriko Tanahashi, 58, was last reported being seen in Gangneung, Gangwon Province on Jan. 1, 2010.  (Hinato Tanahashi)
Eriko Tanahashi, 58, was last reported being seen in Gangneung, Gangwon Province on Jan. 1, 2010.  (Hinato Tanahashi)

According to staff at the hotel, Tanahashi left for Chuncheon, Gangwon Province. After the drama was filmed there, the province gained enormous popularity among Japanese tourists.

Tanahashi, however, never checked out of her hotel or returned to Japan. Worried, her daughters filed a police report at home.

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency ordered a massive manhunt at the time of her disappearance but was unable to locate the missing woman.

An eyewitness reported seeing her at a bus terminal in Gangneung, some 100 kilometers east of her intended destination, on Jan. 1.

Another eyewitness said the widow was alone at a restaurant in the coastal city at 7 p.m. on the same day.

At 9 p.m., Tanahashi sent text messages to her friend in Japan using her mobile phone, her last reported activity.

“We considered all possibilities including suicide, accidental death and crime,” said a police official. “The weather conditions in Gangneung on Jan. 1 were very bad so there is a possibility that she was involved in an accident near the coast.”

After hearing her story, James Lee, CEO of Couple.net, expressed a willingness to help in any way.

“We started this campaign in hopes to return the missing woman to her daughters as soon as possible, and increase the public’s awareness and supportive attitude, as more foreigners choose to travel to Korea,” said the Sunoo head.

According to her daughters, Tanahashi has been to Korea several times in the past and loved Korean culture.

“My mom loved Korea from the bottom of her heart,” said Hinato Tanahashi, her youngest daughter.

By Robert Lee (rjmlee@heraldcorp.com)
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