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Thursday December 15, 2005

Missing Malaysian sighted in N. Korea

Yeng Yoke Fun, missing since 1978.
KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian who went missing 27 years ago may be alive and living in North Korea. 

American army deserter Charles Jenkins, who is currently living in Japan, confirmed he had seen Yeng Yoke Fun in Pyongyang 25 years ago and is confident that she is still alive today. 

Yeng, who should be 50 years old now, was among five women – four Malaysians and one Singaporean – who went missing 27 years ago.  

They were last seen boarding a cargo ship docked in the Eastern Anchorage in Singapore, escorted by three men. 

The other three Malaysians were identified as Yap Me Leng, Seetoh Tai Thim and Margaret Ong Guat Choo – then aged 22, 19 and 19, respectively. 

The case resurfaced when Japanese journalist Hideki Akiyama recently interviewed Jenkins, who now lives with his wife and two children in Japan. 

In an e-mail to MCA Public Services and Complaints Department head Datuk Michael Chong on Tuesday, he said Jenkins claimed to have seen Yeng in North Korea 25 years ago when he showed the woman's picture to him. 

Jenkins claimed to have last seen her when she was working at a shop in an amusement park in North Korea between 1980 and 1981. 

Jenkins, now 65, had defected 40 years ago when he was on patrol duty in the Demilitarised Zone between North and South Korea. 

MISSING SINCE 1978: Chong (left) and Hue holding up images of the four missing Malaysian women during the press conference in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.
While in North Korea, he married Japanese Hitomi Soga, who herself had been abducted from a northern island off Japan in 1978. 

That same year, three women from Macau also went missing. 

Hideki, through independent Japanese Media Coordinator James Hue, recently sought the help of Chong to try and locate the missing Malaysian women. 

He wrote in the e-mail that Jenkins had managed to identify Yeng by the distinctive mole she had near her left eye. 

Hideki also provided Chong with photocopies of the pictures of the missing women, which he had managed to find through research. 

According to a foreign report in October, Jenkins had also managed to identify one of the women who went missing from Macau. 

He said the woman, named Anoche Panjoy, was of Thai origin and that when he last saw her in North Korea, she was married to his friend Larry Abshier, another fellow deserter. 

In a press conference yesterday, Chong said that the Thai and Chinese governments were now placing pressure on North Korea to release the missing women. 

On the missing Malaysians, Chong said that he and Hue would be working closely together with Hideki in trying to locate them. 

“We do not know why these women went missing and whether they were kidnapped by North Korean authorities. 

“If they were, it would be for reasons only known to them,” he said, adding that he hoped to form an official delegation to Japan to meet Jenkins. 

In the meantime, Chong urged family members of the missing women to come forward and help in investigations. 

Those with information can call 03-2161 5678. 

When contacted, the North Korea Embassy here declined comment.