North Korea Nuclear Row May 'Close Door' on Abduction Issue

International pressure and sanctions following North Korea's nuclear test have raised fears that such moves will hinder efforts against alleged abductions committed by the Kim Jong Il regime.

|PIC1|Human rights groups and family members of abductees have highlighted North Korea's "crimes against humanity" as the communist state confirmed its agreement to join six-party talks earlier this week. North Korea had recently sparked worldwide outrage when it announced a successful underground nuclear test which resulted in international sanctions.

"The sanctions may anger North Korea, and that will mean the country closes the door on the abduction issue," said Shigeru Yokota, 73, according to Bloomberg news on Thursday. "But if the international community succeeds in putting enough pressure on North Korea, we hope it will help our cause in the longer term," Yokota added.

Yokota's daughter, Megumi Yokota, was abducted from Japan when she was 13-years-old in 1977. The Yokotas have for decades advocated for stronger pressure on North Korea to reveal information on its abduction of Japanese citizens. Their relentless battle to recover their daughter has gained international media attention and Sakie Yokota, Megumi's mother, met with President Bush to discuss the issue this spring.

North Korea's recent nuclear tests have propelled the issue into media spotlight while many human rights groups have tried to refocus attention on the arbitrary imprisonment, torture of its citizen as well as the abduction of citizens from surrounding countries.

The U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea and the international law firm DLA Piper launched a report on human rights abuses in North Korea on Monday at the British House of Lords.

Those involved in the preparation of the report hope to make human rights concerns the foremost agenda in negotiations with North Korea rather than a secondary issue behind security concerns.

"It is long overdue for the international community to take up the issue of human rights in North Korea to address the millions and millions who have died in North Korea's political prison camps and who have been intentionally starved to death by Kim Jong-Il's withholding of food aid," wrote Suzanne Scholte, vice chairman of the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea in an email on Monday when the report was launched.

Some 1 million North Koreans have starved to death in the 1990s and more than a third of the children in the reclusive sate are malnourished according to the report. As many as 200,000 North Koreans are forced to live in near-starvation conditions in labor camps and more than 400,000 have died in the camps over 30 years, according to report. Moreover, as many as 80 Japanese citizens were abducted by the regime in the 1970s and 1980s. Five Japanese abductees were release by North Korea in 2002.
The report's co-commissioners are Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, former Czech Republic president Vaclav Havel, and former prime minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik.

"Although in recent weeks the international focus has been on North Korea's nuclear weapons test, the situation in that country is also one of the most egregious human rights and humanitarian disasters in the world today," wrote Havel, Bondevik and Wiesel in the report's forward.