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Ex-Hostage Speaks on Former Long-serving Prisoner

Posted March. 29, 2010 07:55,   


“Now, it’s all over. I extend my condolences to the late Kim Hee-ro (Kwon Hee-ro).”

Hideko Mochizuki (photo), 72, said this in reluctantly agreeing to an interview with The Dong-A Ilbo Saturday. The owner of the Japanese inn Fujimiya Ryokan in Sumatakyo, a place famous for hot springs, Mochizuki was held hostage by Kwon in February 1968.

Kwon, who died Friday, killed two yakuza members who allegedly made racist comments against Koreans. He then held 13 hostages for four days before police arrested him by getting into the spa disguised as reporters.

After a trial that lasted for eight years, he was sentenced to life in prison in 1975. In 1999, he was deported to Korea and banned from entering Japan.

In a sympathetic tone, she said, “I was very surprised to hear of Kim’s (Kwon’s) sudden death. Though we had a bad relationship, I hope he can rest in peace in heaven.”

Mochizuki said “Kim Hee-ro” throughout the interview, apparently unaware that he changed his surname to Kwon.

The elderly woman had refused numerous requests for interviews from Japanese media after Kwon died Friday morning. She closed her store Saturday, but she finally spoke when the Dong-A reporter said, “I’m from Korea.”

Mochizuki said, “Whether I like it or not, half of my life was spent on Kim Hee-ro’s (Kwon’s) case. I don’t want to talk about 40 years of history again. Now, it is all over.”

“I’d hoped that Kim could have lived the rest of his life in Korea happily, but rumor had it that he couldn’t.”

She seemed uncomfortable with the different view Koreans have of Kwon from the Japanese.

“I know that many Koreans interpret the accident as ethnic discrimination or a historical issue between Korea and Japan. But to me, it was a personal accident that was a life-threatening experience for my five family members and my eight guests,” she said.

“My family did everything to forget the accident. None of my family has mentioned the case since.”

When asked to describe the situation back then, she cringed as if recalling a terrible memory, saying, “I shudder at the thought of the accident though a long time has passed.

Mochizuki has recently exhibited news articles and pictures on the accident at her inn. “I put the pictures there because many guests have asked me about the case and others said it should not be forgotten.”