Humanitarian issues including tracing missing people and home visits of Japanese spouses living in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK), were among the key issues being addressed during talks between the Red Cross Societies of Japan and the DPRK in Pyongyang on 18-19 August.
The talks were a follow-on from those in Beijing in April 2002 and the issues have been pending for the last year. The Pyongyang talks, the first time they have been held in the DPRK capital, resulted in the announcement of some progress in the whereabouts of Japanese and Korean nationals missing since before 1945.
Of 49 priority cases of missing Japanese in the DPRK, the DPRK Red Cross announced information on six people - with two people still alive. The DPRK Red Cross delegation, led by its deputy secretary general, Ri Ho Rim, has promised to strengthen its tracing efforts in collaboration with the authorities concerned and to continue efforts to get more information on the remaining cases.
In its turn, the Japanese Red Cross was able to provide information on three missing Koreans whose names were among the 55 in a list presented during the Beijing talks. One of the three was still alive. Through the Red Cross, he sent a video and photographs to a sister in Pyongyang that he had not seen for more than 60 years and with whom he had been able to converse via telephone shortly before the talks took place.
The two Red Cross delegations agreed to take measures as soon as possible to organise family reunions for the survivors. And in a statement made to the press in Pyongyang, the Japanese head of delegation, Hiroshi Higashiura assured his DPRK counterpart that the Japanese Red Cross will continue its efforts to trace the whereabouts of those still missing.
For Japanese women who had married Korean nationals and moved to the DPRK between 1959-1981, there was some good news. A group of women will be returning to Japan on home visits towards the end of October. This will be the fourth such visit organised since negotiations began between the two sides.
Although representatives from the foreign ministries of both countries were at the talks, the Red Cross has often been the only channel of communications between Japan and the DPRK, two countries with a difficult past. Both Red Cross societies will meet again at a date and location to be confirmed soon.
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