TOKYO — In one way, President Donald Trump is following his last few predecessors’ playbook in Asia: He met with the families of Japanese citizens who’ve been kidnapped by North Korea.On Monday, Trump met with 16 family members as well as one released kidnap victim.Shigeo Iizuka was among them. He leads an organization called the Association of Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea, and he’s spent decades pressuring the Japanese government to find and return his sister, Yakeo Taguchi, who was abducted in 1978.
Iizuka believes the Japanese government is still trying to secretly collect information on the estimated 17 abductees, but they can’t reveal their sources. So Iizuka, through his organization, has also gathered information about the group’s missing family members. Reports of an abductee going to a hospital or seen shopping trickle in from time to time. That’s how he knows his sister is still alive, he said. But it’s difficult to know when tips are real.Still, Iizuka keeps fighting for his sister’s return, and keeps his hope alive by reminding himself that abductees occasionally come back — five people were released about 15 years ago.Every day he imagines his sister’s life in captivity: “She’s not able to go out or even talk,” Iizuka said. “I’m constantly feeling the pain with her.”VICE News sat down with Iizuka to discuss his decades-long fight for those kidnapped by North Korea, and what he thinks about the current crisis on the Korean Peninsula.