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Rescued Japanese receive passports and mushrooms

Japan’s government will issue travel documents to 5 Japanese nationals who were recently rescued from North Korea. They are Yasushi Chimura, 47, Fukie Hamamoto, 47, Kaoru Hasuike, 45, Yukiko Okudo, 46, and Hitomi Soga, 43. Hitoshi Tanaka, head of the ministry's Asian and Oceanic Affairs Bureau, told the House of Councilors committee on foreign and defense affairs, "We are preparing to issue Japanese passports to them when they go back to North Korea [for a short visit].” In regards to the action taken to ensure their safe return to Japan along with their children, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, appearing before the committee, reiterated the government's aim to seek the return of every member of the survivors' families.

Meanwhile, Abe denied confirmation that Japan received truckloads of "matsutake" mushrooms from North Korea as souvenirs when Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Pyongyang last month. The government mission reportedly received two truckloads of matsutakes, and brought them back to Japan aboard a government plane. At a time when Japan is angry about the kidnappings in North Korea, officials say they were too busy rescuing people to take note of a few mushrooms.

Tanaka admitted Thursday that Japan had received some souvenirs but could not confirm what these gifts were.

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