Read my review of Kim Hyun Hee's Tears of My Soul here
PUSAN--Former North Korean spy Kim Hyon Hui said Wednesday she believes Japanese abductee Yaeko Taguchi is still alive, bringing hope to the missing woman's son and family members of others taken to North Korea.
Taguchi's son, Koichiro Iizuka, 32, after meeting Kim here, said her words gave "new hope for our efforts" to rescue those forcibly taken by the reclusive state.
Taguchi was abducted by North Korean agents in 1978 and was forced to teach Japanese to Kim in Pyongyang for 12/3 years from 1981. In 2002, Pyongyang reported that Taguchi had died in July 1986.
Kim, 47, who was convicted of blowing up a Korean Air jet in 1987, killing 115 people on board, met Koichiro and his adopted father, Shigeo Iizuka, 70, who is Taguchi's brother.
The 11/2-hour meeting, held at a convention hall under heavy security, was the first between Kim and an abductee's family.
Kim, who was sentenced to death for the Korean Air bombing but later pardoned, had not made a public appearance since 1997, when she got married.
When Kim met the two around 11 a.m., she greeted Shigeo and then embraced Koichiro, telling him in Japanese: "You have grown big. You look like your mother. I wanted to see you sooner."
Kim, with tears in her eyes, told Koichiro that one day he would meet his mother.
Koichiro was just 1 year old when Taguchi disappeared. She was 22.
In a news conference after the meeting, Shigeo Iizuka thanked Kim for "clearly testifying to the existence of Yaeko Taguchi."
He went on to say, "I hope this meeting will be a good opportunity to advance Japan and South Korea's efforts to resolve the abduction issue."
At a Japan-North Korea summit in 2002, Pyongyang admitted its agents had abducted Japanese; it said five abductees were alive but eight others, including Taguchi, were dead.
But Kim said she heard between January and October 1987 in North Korea that Taguchi had been moved to another location, leading her to believe the abductee was still alive.
Taguchi was also reportedly sighted in October 1986, three months after Pyongyang said she died. There has also been a report she married a South Korean abductee.
But Kim told the news conference she had never heard whom Taguchi had married. She also said she thinks another abductee, Megumi Yokota, is alive. However, she did not give any specific supporting evidence of either woman's survival.
Pyongyang has denied Taguchi was Kim's Japanese teacher, who taught under the Korean name Lee Un Hae. The North also denies any involvement in the Korean Air bombing.
The meeting was arranged after Kim expressed her hope to see the Iizukas in January, and the family asked the Japanese and South Korean governments for mediation.
The Iizukas, who learned of Taguchi's fate only after Kim's arrest, have for years sought a chance to talk to her to find out about Taguchi's life in North Korea.
"Kim said Yaeko-san, my mother, is alive. She also said she would become my Korean mother. I am very pleased," Koichiro said.
Kim told the news conference Koichiro reminded her of his mother.
"How I wish Taguchi were here with us," she said.
Kim, who has not met any of the Korean Air bombing's bereaved families, said "a miracle can happen" if efforts are made to regain abductees, while respecting the North's "pride."
This seems to be being reported as a happy ending , but it is a little bizarre given that Kim Hyong-Hee can have no real basis for saying that Yaeko Taguchi is still alive given that it was more than twenty years ago since she last saw her. The North Korean government shouldn't be trusted on anything it says, without corroboration, however. For years they denied that they had abducted anyone and still now their explanation of the abductions aren't trustworthy.