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Aum/Aleph

Rare defector to N. Korea returns home to Japan
(AP, November 3, 2005)

Tokyo, Japan - North Korea allowed a Japanese woman who defected to the Communist country two years ago and reportedly had links to a Japanese doomsday cult to return to her homeland on Thursday.

Kazumi Kitagawa jumped off a ferry and swam across a river between China and North Korea in 2003 seeking asylum in North Korea.

"I'm very happy to be back in Japan," Kitagawa said in a news conference after her arrival in Niigata Prefecture in northern Japan, from Pyongyang via Vladivostok, Russia. "I'm very sorry that I caused so much trouble with my sudden return."

The official Korean Central News Agency said Thursday that North Korea had sent Kitagawa back to Japan as a humanitarian gesture.

"I started to miss Japan, and wanted to return," she said upon her arrival at Niigata airport.

Japanese and North Korean officials are meeting in Beijing to discuss the North's nuclear weapons and missile programs and unsolved decades-old North Korean abduction cases.

North Korea in 2002 admitted to abducting 13 Japanese citizens and allowed five of them to return to Japan, claiming the other eight victims had died. But many in Japan suspect some of the victims may still be alive.