TOKYO — Japan's government on Friday defended a costly four-day visit by a former North Korean spy who produced little news about Japanese nationals kidnapped decades ago by the communist regime.
Kim Hyon-Hui, 48 -- who blew up a South Korean jet in 1987, killing 115 people -- ended her visit and left for South Korea on a chartered flight after meeting families of the kidnap victims at a villa and a luxury hotel.
The conservative opposition condemned her visit as a political show orchestrated by the government to shore up public support, although they avoided criticising the families who asked for her to be brought to Japan.
"The world will not understand why a terrorist was treated as if she were a VIP," said Sadakazu Tanigaki, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party.
Kim herself said the visit was meaningful, in one of a few interviews she granted to Japanese media.
"After blowing up the Korean Air plane, I attempted suicide but survived. I believe this was because I should live to tell about the truth behind the bombing incident and the abduction issue," she told the public broadcaster NHK before her departure. "I think I have managed to play some of the role."
She met families of Japanese who were kidnapped by North Korea in the 1970s and 80s to train the regime's spies, including herself, in their language and culture, but she produced no fresh information, media reports said.
Rather, she focused on consoling the families, encouraging them to believe that their loved ones are still alive, despite the regime's claims.
In 2001 North Korea admitted to 13 abductions of Japanese nationals, allowed five to return home and said eight more had died. Japan insists North Korea abducted more people than it admits and is still hiding survivors.
Kim spent two nights at former prime minister Yukio Hatoyama's villa in the exclusive mountain resort of Karuizawa in central Japan and one night at a Tokyo luxury hotel.
She was also treated to a helicopter ride over Tokyo, travelled under high security with a government motorcade, and received presents from the government, including games and toys for her children.
Hiroshi Nakai, the minister in charge of the abduction issue, defended the way Kim had been hosted.
"We showed her a little bit of Tokyo from above. I don't think it is something for which we should be condemned," he said.1
"We asked her to talk to the families of kidnap victims in a quiet environment," he told reporters. "It strengthened the faith of the relatives" that their kidnapped loved ones are still alive, he said.
Asked how much Kim's trip had cost, Nakai snapped: "Why do I have to answer such a question? It's irrelevant."
Opposition leader Tanigaki said Kim should have been questioned by local police over the jet bombing, because she used a Japanese passport when she boarded the South Korean flight and planted the explosives.
After her arrest in Bahrain for the jet bombing, Kim was sentenced to death by South Korea, but then received a presidential pardon on the grounds that she had been brainwashed by the isolated regime.
Now living in a secret location in South Korea, she has married her official bodyguard and written a book about her life as a spy, including her training in which she was taught Japanese by one of the kidnap victims.
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