BANGKOK: The murder of Kim Jong Nam at the KL International Airport 2 (klia 2) three weeks ago, has reminded a Japanese association of a mysterious abduction that took place 39 years ago.
On Aug 20, 1978, a Singaporean and four young Malaysian women vanished after they accepted an invitation from a man, who appeared to be Japanese, to join a boat party off the coast of the island republic.
The Malaysians who disappeared without a trace were Yeng Yoke Fun, 22, Yap Me Leng, 22, Seetoh Tai Thim, 19, and Margaret Ong Guat Choo, 19. The Singaporean was Diana Ng Kum Yim, 24.
Although the two incidents occurred nearly four decades apart, they have one thing in common – both are suspected to be the work of North Korean agents acting on the orders of their supreme leader.
“We should investigate the case again; we are willing to assist relatives of the four Malaysian women in finding more information,” said Association for the Rescue of North Korea Abductees director Tomoharu Ebihara recently.
Despite the scant information available on the four Malaysian women and a gap of 39 years, he is optimistic that he and his colleagues will one day unravel the mystery.
Ebihara said the Malaysian abductees could be in North Korea according to South Korean actress Choi Eun Hee and former United States soldier Charles Robert Jenkins who were both in North Korea.
Eun Hee was abducted in Hong Kong in 1978 while Jenkins deserted his unit in 1965 and crossed into North Korea where he lived until 2004 when he left for Japan to link up with a woman.
“According to Jenkins, he saw a picture of Yoke Fun (one of the women who disappeared in Singapore) and remembered meeting a similar woman at an amusement park in Pyongyang sometime between 1980 and 1981,” said Ebihara.
Eun Hee, who lived in Pyongyang until 1986, said she heard from a woman that a Malaysian couple was also living in the North Korean capital at the time, the activist added.
“That is the only information we have on the possible abductees from Malaysia,” he said, adding that information provided by Eun Hee and Jenkins were credible.
Ebihara said North Korean agents were believed to have kidnapped citizens from 12 countries, including Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Jordan, Lebanon, Romania and France.
He said non-governmental organisations in Japan believed about 300 Japanese had been abducted by North Korean agents even though the government’s official tally was 18.
Hundreds of South Koreans are also believed to have been abducted by North Korean agents.
The only Thai abductee, Anocha Panjoy, vanished in July 1978 while she was working in Macau, allegedly kidnapped by the same “Japanese” man behind the kidnapping of the Malaysian and Singaporean women a month later, said Ebihara.
The “Japanese” man is believed to be a North Korean agent.
Ebihara said while it was impossible to know the reasons for the abductions, it was strongly believed that the abductees were used as language or cultural teachers for North Korean agents, among others.
“They (women abductees) are also kidnapped to become wives of foreign abducted men,” he said, citing Jenkins, who was married to Japanese abductee Hitomi Soga.
Panjoy, said Ebihara, was believed to be married to another foreign abductee, according to information provided by Jenkins.