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Megumi Yokota (Japanese: 横田めぐみ; Yokota Megumi; October 15 1964—March 13 1994?) is one of at least thirteen Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korea in the late 1970s and early 1980s. She was abducted on November 15, 1977 at the age of thirteen and apparently forced to help train North Korean spies to pass as Japanese citizens. In 2002, North Korea admitted that she and others had been abducted, but claimed that she had committed suicide on March 13, 1994 (originally announced as 1993 and later corrected to 1994) and returned what it said were her cremated remains. Japan stated that a DNA test had proved that they could not have been her remains, and her family does not believe that she would have committed suicide. She is believed to have been abducted by Sin Gwang-su.[1]

In the North in 1986, Yokota married a South Korean national, Kim Young-nam (Korean: 김영남, Hanja: 金英男), likely also abducted, and the couple had a daughter in 1987, Kim Hye-gyong (김혜경, whose real name was later revealed to be Kim Eun-gyong, 김은경). In June 2006, Kim Young-Nam, who has since remarried, was allowed to have his family from the South visit him, and during the reunion he confirmed Yokota had committed suicide in 1994 after suffering from mental illness, and had had several attempts at suicide before. He also claimed the remains returned in 2004 are genuine. His comments were however widely dismissed as repeating the official Pyongyang line, and many, especially on the Japanese side, still believe Yokota is alive somewhere.

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DNA controversy

An article in the 3 February 2005 issue of Nature revealed that the DNA analysis on Megumi's remains had been performed by a member of the medical department of Teikyo University, Yoshii Tomio. Yoshii, it later transpired, was a relatively junior faculty member, of lecturer status, in a forensic department that had neither a professor nor even an assistant professor. Remarkably, he said that he had no previous experience in the analysis of cremated specimens, described his tests as inconclusive, and remarked that such samples were very easily contaminated by anyone coming in contact with them, like "stiff sponges that can absorb anything." In other words, the man who had actually conducted the Japanese analysis pronounced it anything but definitive. The five tiny samples he had been given to work on (the largest of them 1.5 grams) had anyway been used up in his laboratory, so independent verification was thereafter impossible. It seemed likely as a result that nobody could ever know for sure what Pyongyang's package had contained.

When the Japanese government's chief cabinet secretary, Hosoda Hiroyuki, referred to this article as inadequate and a misrepresentation of the government-commissioned analysis, Nature responded, in a highly unusual editorial (17 March), saying that:

"Japan is right to doubt North Korea's every statement. But its interpretation of the DNA tests has crossed the boundary of science's freedom from political interference. Nature's interview with the scientist who carried out the tests raised the possibility that the remains were merely contaminated, making the DNA tests inconclusive. This suggestion is uncomfortable for a Japanese government that wants to have North Korea seen as unambiguously fraudulent. ... The inescapable fact is that the bones may have been contaminated. ... It is also entirely possible that North Korea is lying. But the DNA tests that Japan is counting on won't resolve the issue. The problem is not in the science but in the fact that the government is meddling in scientific matters at all. Science runs on the premise that experiments, and all the uncertainty involved in them, should be open for scrutiny. Arguments made by other Japanese scientists that the tests should have been carried out by a larger team are convincing. Why did Japan entrust them to one scientist working alone, one who no longer seems to be free to talk about them? Japan's policy seems a desperate effort to make up for what has been a diplomatic failure ... Part of the burden for Japan's political and diplomatic failure is being shifted to a scientist for doing his job—deriving conclusions from experiments and presenting reasonable doubts about them. But the friction between North Korea and Japan will not be decided by a DNA test. Likewise, the interpretation of DNA test results cannot be decided by the government of either country. Dealing with North Korea is no fun, but it doesn't justify breaking the rules of separation between science and politics."

Media attention

Documentaries made about Megumi and the other kidnapping cases include: KIDNAPPED! The Japan-North Korea Abduction Cases (2005), Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story (2006), Megumi (2007) [2], and Megumi (2008). In October 2006 a special aired on Japan television titled Reunion ~ Megumi Yokota's Wish (Saikai ~ Yokota Megumi no Negai; 再会~横田めぐみさんの願い). It starred Mayuko Fukuda as a young Yokota, and Nana Katase as grown Yokota.

Yokota's parents supervised the creation of a serial manga, one titled Megumi detailing her last days in Japan before her abduction, and another titled Dakkan about returned victim Kaoru Hasuike. Megumi has been announced for an anime adaption by Japanese Government.[1]

Song for Megumi

In early 2007, Paul Stookey (of U.S. folk group Peter, Paul and Mary) introduced a song dedicated to Megumi. Titled, 'Song for Megumi' (2007) Stookey toured Japan to sing the song in February, and attended various media interviews with the Yokota parents.

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