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Son of Japan abductee to N. Korea hopes Trump raises issue

TOKYO -- Koichiro Iizuka only knows her as Yaeko-san, a pretty woman smiling in an old photo and in stories told by his relatives. A 16-month-old baby, he was at a childcare center in downtown Tokyo with his 3-year-old sister, waiting to be picked up by their mother. She never returned.

Yaeko Taguchi, then 22, was kidnapped by North Korea agents in June 1978, presumably on her way to the nursery from a night job she was working to raise the children as a divorced mother. The baby boy was adopted by Taguchi's brother, Shigeo Iizuka, and raised as his fourth child; his sister was adopted by an aunt. 

In this Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017 photo, Koichiro Iizuka, whose mother Yaeko Taguchi was abducted by North Korean agents in 1978 when he was a baby, speaks during the interview with the Associated Press in Tokyo. (AP Photo)
In this Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017 photo, Koichiro Iizuka, whose mother Yaeko Taguchi was abducted by North Korean agents in 1978 when he was a baby, speaks during the interview with the Associated Press in Tokyo. (AP Photo)

Taguchi's whereabouts weren't known for nearly a quarter century until North Korea, after years of denials, acknowledged in 2002 abducting about a dozen Japanese citizens. Iizuka, now a 40-year-old computer programmer, wants President Donald Trump to learn about the ordeal of the relatives of those abducted when he meets some of them in Tokyo on Monday.

Japan says North Korea snatched at least 17 people in the 1970s and `80s to train its spies in Japanese culture and language so they pass as Japanese and spy on South Korea. Pyongyang has admitted abducting 13 of them, including Taguchi, and has allowed five to visit Japan -- they stayed instead of returning to the North. North Korea said the other eight had died, and no other abductee has since returned.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made resolving the abduction issue a top policy goal that he pledged would not be put to rest until all victims return home. There is no sign of any progress amid new tensions created by North Korea's escalating missile and nuclear threats, making it more difficult to seek answers from Pyongyang. 

Everyone is getting older, and Iizuka is frustrated. He still believes his mother, who would be 62, is alive, largely because the North hasn't provided reliable proof of her death. North Korea only told Japan that she was killed in a car accident in 1986. 

Trump's engagement has breathed new hope that the fate of the abductees will be finally exposed and possibly all the remaining Japanese returned home in one group, according to Iizuka. He wants to be part of the meeting with