North Korea has made public a group of Japanese spouses of Korean Japanese who had been repatriated to the North. Attention now turns to what could be North Korea's intention behind the disclosure of the group.
This is the office of Japanese spouses living in Hamhung, Hamkyongnam-do Province, North Korea. Six elderly women donning traditional Korean dresses appear in front of Japanese reporters. They came to North Korea along with their ethnic Korean husbands when their partners were repatriated to the North. North Korea said that the group of Japanese spouses was launched in November of last year to provide social philanthropic services. One of the women who was repatriated in 1960 demanded that the Japanese government step in to help them visit their home country.
[Soundbite] Japanese Woman (85-year-old) : "We want diplomatic ties to be normalized as soon as possible so that something can be done while we're alive."
Some 90,000 Korean Japanese were repatriated to North Korea between 1959 and 1984. The number of Japanese women who were repatriated along with their Korean husbands is estimated to surpass 1,800. The whereabouts of most of them had beenunknown until recently. But the North decided to disclose them as a negotiation tool to counter the growing military pressure from the United States and tough international sanctions. Analysts say that Pyongyang may be trying to resume dialogue with Tokyo to break its isolation.