North Korean official rejects Pyongyang kidnapped four Malaysian women

A North Korean diplomat on Tuesday dismissed the possibility that four Malaysian women who disappeared in Singapore in the 1970s were abducted by Pyongyang. The Malaysian Chinese Association, the second largest party in Malaysia's ruling coalition, has pledged to investigate the matter after U.S. Army deserter Charles Robert Jenkins said recently that he saw one of the women while he was living in North Korea.

"We deny this matter," Paek Hyon-chol, a political counselor at North Korea's embassy in Kuala Lumpur, told The Associated Press. North Korea in 2002 admitted abducting 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s to help train spies. One of the kidnapped women, Hitomi Soga, became Jenkins' wife. But Pyongyang has not acknowledged kidnapping the nationals of other countries.

Jenkins, who abandoned his army unit and fled to North Korea in 1965 before emerging last year, was shown photos of the missing Malaysians in a television interview aired last month in Japan. Jenkins reportedly said he had seen one of them, Ying Ying Tai, working in an amusement park in 1980 or 1981, adding that he remembered her because she had a mole near her left eye. Michael Chong, head of the Malaysian Chinese Association's public assistance bureau, said last week he would ask foreign ministry officials to contact Pyongyang over Jenkins' claim after families of the four Malaysian women sought the party's help.

Paek said North Korea's embassy "hasn't received a formal request" from Malaysian officials, but declined to say whether Pyongyang would check the matter further if asked to do so.

Ying vanished with the three other Malaysian women in August 1978. The women, whose ages ranged between 19 and 22 at the time of their disappearance, had been working with a social escort company in Singapore and were last seen at a celebration aboard a ship, reports the AP. I.L.

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