The abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea.

Abductions Carried out Internatyonally by North Korea


NARKN is a Japanese NGO established in 1997 for the purpose of rescuing Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea. Tsutomu Nishioka, chairman of NARKN, is a professor at Tokyo International Christian University specializing in regional studies for South Korea and the Korean Peninsula. NARKN, represented by its chairman Tsutomu Nishioka, organized and promoted the project, “Overview of the Abductions” to shed light on the global scale of North Korean abductions. This report is a brief summary of the results of that project.

I. Four Peak Periods / Three Types / Nine Purposes of Abductions

North Korea has abducted a large number of South Koreans and foreigners from across the globe. The abductions can be categorized into four peak periods, three types, and nine purposes.

◆ A. The Four Peak Periods of Abductions

North Korea's abduction activities peaked during the following four periods:

  1. The abduction of approximately 100,000 South Koreans during the Korean War.
  2. Beginning in 1953 and continuing to 1976, the abduction of approximately 500 South Koreans, mainly by kidnapping fishing boats.
  3. Beginning in 1976 and continuing into the 1980's, the abduction of persons from foreign countries, including South Korea, Japan, and ten other countries, pursuant to Kim Jong Il's orders to abduct foreigners for the purpose of training North Korean spies on how to adjust to foreign cultures while on assignment outside of North Korea.
  4. Since 1995, the abduction of persons thought to be engaged in activities harmful to the North Korean regime, such as support for North Korean defectors.
◆ B. The Three Types of Abductions

Investigations reveal three types of abductions engaged in by North Korea: 1) abduction by accidental encounter, 2) premeditated abduction, and 3) conditional abduction. Each type is described below.

  1. The first type of abduction occurs when a spy has no option other than abduction to prevent secrets from being revealed. The case in point is the Takeshi Terakoshi incident, which occurred off the coast of Ishikawa Prefecture in Japan in 1963. This case is thought to have occurred in order to conceal the landing point of North Korean spies and as such it illustrates a typical type of abduction by accidental encounter. 1
  2. The second type of abduction is premeditated abduction. This type of abduction is carried out after selecting a subject, enticing that person to a coastal area or third country, and then handing over the subject to North Korean spies. Good examples of this type of abduction are the cases of Minoru Tanaka and Yaeko Taguchi, who were abducted in June 1978. 2
  3. In cases of the third type, conditional abduction, North Korean agents do not select a subject before abduction, but search coastal areas for a subject who satisfies certain pre-set conditions, such as "a young woman" or " a young couple". In Japan, this type of abduction frequently occurred in the summer of 1978.3
◆ C. The Nine Purposes for Engaging in Abductions

There are nine identifiable purposes which motivated North Korea to carry out the abduction of foreigners:

  1. To acquire skilled-technicians (professionals) Representative cases: South Korean civilians abducted during the Cold War and the 1978 abduction of a South Korean movie director and actress.
  2. To use as soldiers or laborers (mainly South Koreans) Representative cases: abduction of South Korean civilians during the Korean War.
  3. To use as spies Representative cases: the abduction of South Korean fishermen and the Japanese Red Army abductions of Toru Ishioka, Kaoru Matsuki and Keiko Arimoto.
  4. To protect national secrets Representative case: the Terakoshi incident.1
  5. To steal identities (mainly Japanese) Representative cases: Yutaka Kume and Tadaaki Hara whose abductions are acknowledged by the Japanese government.
  6. To use as instructors for localization training of spies Representative cases: Yaeko Taguchi, Megumi Yokota, and Hong Leng-ieng abducted in Macau.4
  7. To give spouses to other abductees and foreigners who live in North Korea Representative cases: Kaoru and Yukiko Hasuike, and Yasushi and Fukie Chimura, who were married in North Korea. Other representative cases: Hitomi Soga who was married to the U.S. deserter Charles Jenkins in North Korea, and the Thai, Romanian and Lebanese abductees who were also married to U.S. soldiers who deserted to North Korea.
  8. To stop anti-North Korean activities (particularly activity which supports defectors from North Korea) Representative case: Pastor Kim Dong-Shek, who was abducted in Jilin Provence, China, in 2000.
  9. To use as agents for propaganda against South Korea Representative case: The August, 1997 abduction of O- ik-che, taken from South Korea via Dandong, China5

II. Abductions During the Korean War (1950~1953) and by Capturing Fishing Boats After the War (1953~1976)

About 100,000 South Koreans were abducted systematically and on a large scale under the orders of Kim Il Sung during the Korean War. The Korean War Abductees Research Institute, (KWARI), headed by Lee Mi-il, president, is actively engaged in research and collecting data on these victims. The abduction of Japanese and other foreigners during the Korean War has not yet been confirmed.

In the cases of "abduction by capturing South Korean fishing boats between 1953 and 1976", Japanese Professor Osamu Eya of Waseda University and other scholars have conducted thorough investigations and found the following.

North Korean agents abducted South Koreans during this period mostly from fishing boats and military vessels sailing close to the maritime border, with one notable exception in which North Korean agents hijacked a passenger plane. According to the South Korean government’s 2010 statistical database, in total North Korea selected 3,692 victims in this manner. In a short time it gave back to South Korea 3,257 of the victims, or 88%, for the purpose of political propaganda after showing them that North Korea had achieved a high level of development of which the South should be envious. The remaining 435 South Koreans, who account for 12% of the selected abductees, were trained by North Korea to be spies.

During this period abductions of Japanese nationals occurred as well. One example is the case of Takeshi Terakoshi which was mentioned above. In 1963, North Korean spies from the Chongjin Liaison Office who had infiltrated into Japan by boat abducted three Japanese fishermen to conceal their landing point. There are a number of witness statements about the fate of abducted Japanese nationals. In one case, a witness saw a person who looked very similar to a Japanese abductee at a North Korean espionage agency. This testimony, however, does not confirm how many Japanese were abducted by North Korea. In 1969, Kim Il Sung said in an extended executive meeting at the Korean Workers Party Central Committee Building Number 3, that, if necessary, it was possible to abduct Japanese nationals or to “turn them over” to the North Korean side. Witnesses from the Chongjin Liaison Office also said that abductions of Japanese had taken place when considered necessary even before Kim Jong Il's orders in 1976. These comments do not give any indication of how many Japanese nationals were abducted by North Korea. Abductions by North Korean spies infiltrating into South Korea and other foreign countries during this period have not yet been confirmed.

III. Abductions under Kim Jong Il's 1976 Orders (1976~1980s)

Abductions in the period 1976 through the 1980’s were carried out as an explicit part of North Korea’s national policy. By analyzing information and data gathered, including the testimony of five former North Korean spies, the following information has been revealed about North Korean abductions committed across the globe under the 1976 orders of Kim Jong Il.6

A. The Importance of Kim Jong Il's Abduction Orders

After being designated as Kim Il Sung’s successor in 1974, Kim Jong Il began seizing control of North Korea’s espionage operations in the South. In order to facilitate his complete control, he enhanced censorship of espionage operations between June and November in 1975.

Early in 1976 Kim Jong Il announced his new policy and issued guidelines for operations against the South, which included the abduction order: “for the thorough localization education of agents, bring in locals to provide the agents’ education.” The new guidelines also included the following orders: “So far, operations against the South have produced no results because we used agents originally from the South who were not qualified. From now on, ‘key espionage leaders’ shall be dispatched as agents who will create a revolutionary party in the South. Those who are from elite backgrounds in the North must be trained thoroughly, go through intense localization education and groomed to become ‘key espionage leaders’. “For the thorough localization training of agents, bring in locals to provide the agents’ education.” In order to achieve his goals, Kim Jong Il ordered the abduction of South Koreans and foreigners who could be used as instructors to train the "key espionage leaders". As his speech reveals, abductions were an essential part of his new policy.

In 1977 and 1978, abductions of South Koreans and foreigners were carried out on a large scale across the globe for the purpose of providing instructors for North Korean agents. In South Korea, many were abducted by North Korean spies who had infiltrated the South. These victims were abducted for localization training of North Korean spies. The abduction of a South Korean high school teacher who was traveling in Europe also occurred during this time. It is probable that this abduction was also for the purpose of North Korea acquiring teaching resources. In 1978, a South Korean movie director and an actress whom Kim Jong Il was fond of were lured to Hong Kong and abducted. There are thought to be 17 South Koreans who were abducted after the Korean War, excluding the cases of captured fishing boats. 8 of the 17 were abducted in 1977 and 1978.

Kim Jong Il eventually admitted that the plan to use South Koreans as North Korean spies was a mistake. After his admission, the use of abducted South Korean fishermen as North Korean spies was stopped, and accordingly the capture of South Korean boats and fishermen stopped as well.

Many of the abductions of Japanese nationals also occurred in 1977 and 1978, immediately after Kim Jong Il's 1976 abduction orders. The number of Japanese abductees confirmed by the Japanese government is 17, 13 of whom were abducted during these two years. These abductions are thought to have been committed either to use the victims as instructors for North Korean agents or to give them to instructors as spouses.7 Abductions by North Korea occurred in ten other nations besides Korea and Japan during this period. Those nations are China, Thailand, Lebanon, Romania, Singapore, Malaysia, Jordan, France, Italy, and the Netherlands.

It is unclear how long North Korea’s world-wide abduction initiative to acquire instructors lasted. In the 1980s, the Japanese Red Army Yodo-go hijackers committed systematic abductions in Europe. These abductions were carried out under Kim Jong Il's orders to kidnap Japanese to use them as North Korean spies. In the late 1980s, two members of the Japanese Red Army were arrested for trying to abduct members of the Self-Defense Forces of Japan. Evidence of this type of abduction has not been uncovered since the late 1980’s.

Localization training and education of "key espionage leaders" began in 1980. North Korea’s first group of future key espionage leaders included two women named Kim Hyon-hui and Kim Suck-hui, along with six men. Localization training for Japan was given to Kim Hyon-hui by the abductee Yaeko Taguchi and to Kim Suck-hui by the abductee Megumi Yokota. Chinese localization education was provided to both of them by Kong Ling-Ying, a Chinese abductee. Kim Hyon-hui received one-on-one training from Yaeko Taguchi for two years. If 8 North Korean spies received Japanese localization training every year in the same manner, there must have been at least 16 Japanese instructors for one-on-one training of the 16 North Korean spies over two years. If the instructors' spouses are taken into consideration, then the presumed number of Japanese abductees rises to 30.

B. Kim Jong Il Admitted the Abduction of Japanese in September 2002

Kim Jong Il admitted the abduction of Japanese citizens and apologized for it in September 2002. However, he denied being personally involved in the abductions and shifted responsibility to special North Korean institutions, saying that their rashness and heroism was the cause of the abductions. He returned 5 of the Japanese abductees and alleged that only 13 Japanese civilians had been abducted and that 8 of them had died. The North Korean regime’s false statements about the abductees, including failure to acknowledge the full list of known Japanese abduction victims and return them to Japan, remains an issue that must be addressed if the abductees who remain in the North are to be rescued.

The Japanese government has demanded the return of all remaining Japanese abduction victims. This demand includes the 8 abductees the North Korean regime claims are dead on the grounds that all the evidence of their alleged death is fabricated. The Japanese government has not commented on why the North had to lie about the fate of these 8 abductees, even to the point of sending Japan fake remains.

The National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea (NARKN) has argued that North Korea could not return the 8 allegedly “dead” abductees out of fear that information about Kim Jong Il's abduction orders might be revealed. His 1976 abduction orders were a top national secret. It is also likely that the North Korean regime considered it essential to keep the orders secret in order to protect the identities of North Korean spies who were trained and dispatched to infiltrate other countries. One of the spies when subsequently caught admitted she was trained in Japanese culture by one of the allegedly dead Japanese abduction victims and she was ordered subsequently by Kim Jong Il to hijack a Korean Air passenger plane. From every perspective, the North Korean abductions are an act of terror against the international community.

North Korea may still be concerned that admitting the 1976 abduction orders will reveal Kim Jong Il as the mastermind behind all the terror and abductions by North Korea. As a tyrannical government, North Korea put first priority on maintaining the authority of its leadership. This is considered a likely reason why the North did not want to return the abductees whose repatriation would lead to unveiling the truth about Kim Jong Il’s abduction and terrorism orders.

The above-mentioned facts relating to Kim Jong Il's abduction orders in 1976 make a strong case for this argument.

IV.Abductions to Stop Activities Harmful to the North Korean Regime (1995~)

North Korea’s reasons for carrying out international abductions changed again in the 1990’s. Most abductions since 1995 targeted individuals who were perceived to be engaging in “activities harmful to the North Korean regime”.

In the late 1990s, a severe famine struck the North. 3 million people, about 15% of North Korea's total population, died of hunger. Amid this crisis, many North Koreans crossed the border into China. One byproduct of this exodus was that a large volume of unwanted information started to flow back into North Korea from the defectors and refugees. Since then North Korea has sent Political Security Bureau officers to China to clamp down on the defectors and force their repatriation. In the process, South Korean missionaries, among others, have been abducted for supporting North Korean defectors.

According to a reliable source, since 2000 many ethnic Korean Chinese citizens have been abducted by North Korean Political Security Bureau officers for the same reason. Another source raised suspicions of the abduction of an American citizen.8 In 2011, NARKN received information that an American student, David Sneddon, who went missing in Yunnan, China, in 2004, had been abducted by North Korean agents. The area from which he disappeared in Yunnan Province is known to be a route used by North Korean defectors and refugees in their attempt to pass from China to neighboring countries such as Thailand.

NARKN continues to sift through data and information as it becomes available, and to cooperate with the family of David Sneddon and other NGO’s as we work to find out the truth of what happened to the many missing international victims of North Korean abduction.


1 On 1 May 1963 Shoji Terakoshi, Soto Terakoshi and Takeshi Terakoshi disappeared while fishing off the Noto Peninsula (Ishikawa Prefecture). Only their boat was found along the coast. 24 years later, in 1987, Soto Terakoshi’s sister received a letter from her brother, explaining that they lived in North Korea.

An Myong-jin, a former North Korean spy, revealed that he saw a man resembling Takeshi Terakoshi near a weaponry warehouse at the Kim Jong-il Military University. O Gu-ho, an instructor there, told the former spy, “I came across him during a spy mission. I was the one who kidnapped and brought him here!” Speaking about a man thought possibly to be Shoji Terakoshi, he said “At the scene of the kidnapping, he tried to resist and protect the child (Takeshi, then aged 13). I shot him and he disappeared into the sea.” He added, “The three men were out at night a few hundred meters off the Noto Peninsula. Our spy-boat collided with theirs. We abducted them, leaving their boat behind, so that they couldn’t denounce our illegal entry.”

This testimony provides conclusive evidence of North Korea’s involvement in the kidnapping of Takeshi Terakoshi. North Korean authorities, however, forced Takeshi to say that the North Korean boat had in fact rescued him at the time.

In May, 2013, Minister for Abductions Keiji Furuya visited the site of the Terakoshi incident in Ishikawa Prefecture and declared that North Korea must tell the truth about this incident, including addressing the possibility the abduction of its victims.

2 The Japanese government officially recognizes Minoru Tanaka and Yaeko Taguchi as victims of North Korean abduction.

3 In July through August of 1978, there were five abduction attempts targeting couples along Japan’s coast. On July 7, in an incident in Fukui Prefecture, Yasushi and Fukie Chimura were abducted. On July 31, in an incident in Niigata Prefecture, Kaoru and Yukiko Hasuike were abducted, and on August 12 in Kagoshima Prefecture, Shuichi Ichikawa and Rumiko Masumoto were abducted. On the same date in Nigata Prefecture, Hitomi Soga and Miyoshi Soga were abducted. On August 15, there was also an attempted abduction of a couple in Toyama Prefecture.

4 On July 2, 1978, the same day Anocha, a young Thai woman was kidnapped, two Chinese women from Macau, Hong Leng-ieng (20) and So Moi-Chun (22), also disappeared. Both were jewelry sales assistants at the Macau Hotel Lisboa. The same North Korean agent impersonating a Japanese tourist who tricked Anocha was also instrumental in the disappearance of the two Chinese girls. Testimony about one of them was provided by the South Korean actress Choi Un-hee, who was kidnapped by North Korea in 1978 and managed to escape in 1986. Choi Un-hee testified that in North Korea she had been friends with a Chinese girl from Macau called Hong. In December 2005, in an interview with Choi Un-hee, NARKN asked her specific questions about Hong Leng-ieng. In January, 2006, NARKN met with the victim’s family and reviewed the same questions. The interviews confirm the following points:

  • Hong Leng-ieng’s mother and brother are in Macau.
  • Her father, who was unable to flee to Macau with the rest of the family, was left in China.
  • Her father is a teacher and her mother a dress maker.
  • Leng-ieng played volley-ball in high school. She renounced going to university in order to give her younger brother the chance to go.
  • She worked as a sales assistant in a Macau jewelry shop while at the same time working as tour guide.
  • She is a Catholic
  • She was 20 years old when she was abducted.

In December, 2012, Kim Hyon Hui, the terrorist who committed the Korean Airlines bombing, spoke at a NARKN meeting, where she testified that Hong Leng-ieng had been her personal Chinese language instructor.

5 South Korean Monthly Magazine Shin Towa, October 2008 Issue: Exclusive: First Revelation in 11 years by a Former Agent of the North Korean Unification Front Department “O ik-che (former head of the Tendo Religious Sect) Did Not Voluntarily Seek Asylum But Was Abducted.”

6 Tsutomu Nishioka, Kim Jong Il’s Crimes: Terrorist Wearing the Mask of “State Leader” Seiron Magazine Special Issue, The Death of Kim Jong Il and the Future of Japan, published December 28, 2011.

7 See: NARKN Victims abducted by North Korea throughout the world

8 Kang tyol-fan, Abduction of Chinese Perpetrated by North Korea Public Security Organizations, Report submitted to the International Symposium on Abductions, held by NARKN and other Japanese organizations, December 11, 2009