Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

  • HOME
  • Speaking Out
  • 【#864】On Passing Away of Shigeo Iizuka, Leader of Abductees’ Families
Tsutomu Nishioka

【#864】On Passing Away of Shigeo Iizuka, Leader of Abductees’ Families

Tsutomu Nishioka / 2021.12.23 (Thu)

December 20, 2021

On December 18, Shigeo Iizuka, a former representative of the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnaped by North Korea, died at the age of 83. He was the eldest brother of Yaeko Taguchi, one of Japanese abductees. Iizuka served as the association representative for 14 years from 2008, when he took over the post from Shigeru Yokota who stayed as the first representative for 10 years and eight months. Iizuka thus led the national movement to rescue abductees over a longer term than Yokota.

“Never give up”

At a national meeting for rescuing abductees on November 13, Iizuka representing the organizers made his last call in public settings. He vowed not to give up three times in a six-minute address. “We cannot give up on the abduction issue… We are being in a difficult situation, but I would like you to bear in mind that we can never give up on the issue and get determined to resolve it at any cost… I feel that if we do not give up, it will lead to the resolution.”

After delivering the address, Iizuka excused himself from the meeting and went back home. One week later, he was hospitalized and failed to recover. How strongly might he have felt regret that he was dying without rescuing his sister and other abductees.

“The abduction issue is urgent,” said Takuya Yokota, who is a younger brother of Megumi Yokota, another abductee, and has replaced Iizuka as the association representative. “In accordance with the wishes (of Iizuka), I would like to adhere to our principles and act to realize immediate and collective return of all the abductees.”

As leader of a support group for rescuing abductees, I have been involved in a joint struggle with Iizuka. As was the case with the passing of Megumi’s father Shigeru Yokota, I felt as if a fellow soldier standing by my side in a battlefield was shot to death. As representative of the families’ association, Iizuka faithfully performed his duties. He was really serious. I feel that Iizuka’s presence led many people in Japan to support our rescue movement.

Kishida should press North Korea

As the abduction issue has long been left unresolved, the aging of the abductees and their families has become a matter of serious concern. But this has also plunged North Korea into a difficult position. Japan’s economic aid wanted by North Korea will have to get support from most of Japanese people. To this end, the way must be paved for the abductees and their families to be united and hug each other. If the abductees are allowed to return to Japan after their parents’ deaths, Japanese people would harshly condemn North Korea for having failed to return the abductees earlier. Then, there could be no way to improve the bilateral relations. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his administration should accurately convey this point to Pyongyang and press it to make a decision to return all the abductees immediately and collectively. We can never give up.

Tsutomu Nishioka is a senior fellow and a Planning Committee member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals and a visiting professor at Reitaku University. He covers South and North Koreas.