Beijing: A group of 16 Japanese nationals arrived friday in Beijing en route to North Korea for a visit to graves near Pyongyang, where ashes of Japanese nationals are thought to have been buried, the group said.
The relatives of those who died in North Korea around the end of World War II are scheduled to arrive in Pyongyang on saturday and stay there for six days, according to the group.
The members are from various parts of Japan including Chiba Prefecture and Nagoya, with flights departing from both Haneda airport in Tokyo and Kansai airport in Osaka Prefecture.
Tomoya Sato, an 80-year-old resident of Kawasaki, southwest of Tokyo, traced the relatives through a list possessed by his father of those buried at the Ryongsan burial site in the suburbs of Pyongyang.
According to Sato, relatives of about a dozen people on the list, which has around 2,400 names, have been found so far.
Masako Takizawa, an 82-year-old resident of Nagoya who found the names of her mother and younger sister on the list, said before departing Haneda airport, "I had given up on visiting their graves so I am pleased it has come true. I`d also like to offer prayers on behalf of my younger brother who passed away two years ago."
North Korea regards the matter as a humanitarian issue that should be addressed promptly and has expressed its willingness to allow bereaved families and relatives in Japan to visit sites which it says accommodate the ashes and remains of Japanese nationals.
Between late August and early September, it allowed four members of Zenkoku Seishinkai -- a group of Japanese repatriates from the northern part of the Korean Peninsula -- to visit the country.