High School Category 1st Prize
Inheritance: Learning from YOKOTA Shigeru's Conviction
11th grade, Eishin Junior and Senior High School
"I want to see my daughter." With that sole intent, he stood on the street with his wife Sakie as longtime representative and founder of the Association of Families of Victims Abducted by North Korea. They went to schools nationwide and spoke 1,400 times.
But his wish wasn't granted. 43 years have passed since his daughter Megumi, who was 13 years old at the time, was kidnapped to North Korea. YOKOTA Shigeru, who held close to him the comb that Megumi gave him as a birthday present, passed away in June of 2020 at age 87.
I always considered this too-depressing issue of abduction through Shigeru. On TV, he gave the impression of being calm and gentle. Even when public opinion and lobbying regarding North Korea leaned towards the radical, Shigeru's voice, figure and comments were calm and I felt that he honored a dialogue-driven resolution. And through Shigeru, the abduction issue came to be taken as a significant human rights violation issue.
In the past the Yokotas were divided in opinion on whether or not to publicize Megumi's name. There was the fear that if they publicly announced her name, she might be killed by North Korea. However, Shigeru concluded that it was feeble to bring her to public attention as "Y.M.", and decided to publicly announce her name. As a father, he had the strong determination to get back his daughter unconditionally.
Shigeru liked to take photos of his family as a subject matter. In the numerous photographs that appeared in the anime "Megumi" (Government Headquarters for Countermeasures Against the Abduction of Japanese by North Korea), I felt the overflowing love Shigeru had for Megumi. For Shigeru, capturing his family on camera was a happy part of his daily life. But this was suddenly lost to him. Shigeru stopped taking photos after that day.
When I heard of Shigeru's passing, I felt a sense of urgency. At this rate, it wouldn't just be the the victims' families who'd pass away, but the victims themselves. I get the sense that North Korea is waiting for that to happen.
It feels as though interest in this issue is declining within Japan. That feels dangerous to me. It may be trite, but I think that if all people in Japan continued to hold strong interest in this issue, and every single person kept expressing the opinion that they would under no circumstances give up this issue of human rights violation, it would lead to Shigeru's conviction and actions being passed on, and make North Korea budge.
In October of 2002, five abductees including HASUIKE Kaoru returned to Japan. At that time, Megumi's death was announced, and Shigeru wailed without shrinking from the public gaze, which was unlike himself. But Shigeru, as the representative of the association of families, said considerately, "The families of those who were fine, please be joyful without feeling the need to hold back." I respect Shigeru's sense of responsibility, kindness and courage from the bottom of my heart. I also want to become someone like that.
HASUIKE Kaoru said this: "No matter what it takes, we must have all abductees brought back to Japan while their parents' generation is still living." That is exactly what I think. This issue and no other is my matter.