Joint Statement to Prime Minister Abe

Joint Statement from Five
Japanese & Korean NGOs

To Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Request for the Permanent Resettlement in Japan of all Japanese Spouses and Family (including grandchildren) of Ethnic Koreans “Repatriated” to North Korea on the occasion of the Stockholm Agreement between Japan and North Korea

On the occasion of the July 1 initiation of the Japan-North Korea government-level consultations, we would like to express our deepest respect for your commitment to resolving humanitarian problems including the issue of helping those abducted by North Korea.

The agreement reached in May at the Japan-North Korea government-level consultations stipulates that the investigation will not only deal with those abducted by North Korea, but will also be carried out comprehensively and thoroughly in relation to all Japanese nationals, including with respect to the remains and grave sites of Japanese nationals who died in present-day North Korea around 1945, Japanese war orphans left behind in China, Japanese spouses of ethnic Koreans who went to North Korea, Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea and Japanese missing persons thought to be in North Korea.

Abductions are a grave violation of human rights and state sovereignty, and as such we understand the rescue of the victims to rightly be the highest priority of government.

However, the Japanese spouses (most of them women) of ethnic Koreans who left for North Korea during the so-called “repatriation” campaign of ethnic Koreans to North Korea that began in 1959 are also Japanese nationals who have met a tragic fate in North Korea. It is likely that many of them were sent to political prison camps and subsequently killed.

Approximately 6700 of these Japanese spouses of ethnic Koreans from Japan and their children held Japanese citizenship at the time they went to North Korea. If those who gave up their citizenship before leaving for North Korea are included, the number is much higher.

Approximately 10 out of that total have escaped North Korea and resettled in Japan, but the vast majority continue to suffer from hunger and oppression, of which many have no doubt perished.

The immigration authorities (Ministry of Justice) and the Japanese Red Cross should still have copies of the lists of Japanese nationals who went to North Korea during the so-called “Repatriation Program”.

The recent Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea also points out that the “Repatriation Program” to North Korea gave rise to forced disappearances.

With North Korea being billed falsely as a “Paradise on Earth”, and untrue assurances that “returnees” would be able to come back to Japan for a visit after three years, the Japanese spouses were completely deceived into going to North Korea.

At the very least, we owe it to them to make sure that they can live out their final years in Japan, their homeland, with the families from whom they have been separated from for too long. We should ensure that they and their families, including their grandchildren, are able to come to Japan if they wish to do so.

Looking out for the welfare of Japanese nationals is the responsibility of the Japanese government. From a humanitarian standpoint as well, the Japanese government must take a strong stance with North Korea and, based on the Stockholm Agreement between Japan and North Korea, see that its demands are met.

Further, there are numerous Japanese nationals who were stranded in North Korea after the end of the Second World War whose fate is still unknown. We call upon the Japanese government to ask the North Korean government not only for their remains and for the right to visit their graves, but also for a full report of the kind of treatment they experienced in North Korea, and for a detailed list of their descendants. In addition, we ask that you allow any of their descendants who so wish to return to Japan.

Based on the Stockholm Agreement between Japan and North Korea, and from the standpoint of human rights diplomacy and the humanitarian spirit, we call upon the Japanese government to do the following with regard to the spouses of ethnic Koreans from Japan who went to North Korea under the “repatriation” program, as well as their families including grandchildren:


On the occasion of the Stockholm Agreement between Japan and North Korea, along with the investigation into the whereabouts of the Japanese spouses of ethnic Koreans, we call on the Japanese government to allow any such spouses and their descendants to return to Japan if they so wish.

We ask you not to leave on their own in North Korea in their old age, but to facilitate the return to Japan, or entry into Japan and granting of permanent residency status, to any such spouses and family members, including grandchildren, who wish to settle in Japan.

At the same time, recognizing that the families cannot express freely express their desire to come to Japan while under the surveillance of the North Korean national security apparatus, we ask the Japanese government to proactively find a way to determine what their true wishes are.

We believe that it is necessary to bring all of the above individuals to Japan in order to determine whether they wish to settle permanently in Japan.

We rely upon the good judgment of the Japanese government in this matter.


The children of the Japanese spouses possess neither Japanese language skills nor the fundamentals necessary to live in Japanese society. It may also be expected that in many cases, the above individuals are suffering from serious physical and psychological damage.

In addition, it will not be easy for them to adjust to Japanese society as they do not possess the basic knowledge necessary for life in Japan.

However, based on our experience, after 2-3 years they can expect to live full and enriching lives in Japan. Therefore in order to facilitate their smooth integration into Japanese society, we ask you to use the former facilities for the Japanese orphans left behind in China to provide a minimum level of Japanese language instruction and job training in preparation for their settlement in Japan.

3. The Japanese spouses who have fled North Korea and resettled in Japan have left behind children in North Korea. With the Stockholm Agreement between Japan and North Korea, we ask you to facilitate reunions between these children and their parents, and the resettlement in Japan for those who wish it.
4. We ask the Japanese government to conduct and record detailed immigration interviews with the individuals above for whom immigration procedures are necessary.

Submitted by:
•  The Society to Help Returnees to North Korea
•  Life Funds for North Korean Refugees
•  Lawyers League Works on Abduction and Human Rights Issues Concerning North Korea
•  No Fence
•  Human Rights Watch