Japan tightens controls on DPRK cash flows

According to Bloomberg:

Japan tightened controls on sending money to North Korea and authorized the Coast Guard to search the communist regime’s ships in response to the deadly attack on a South Korean naval vessel.

The cap on undeclared cash transfers will be lowered to 3 million yen ($32,800) from 10 million yen, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano said today in Tokyo. Parliament passed a bill allowing the boarding of ships in international waters suspected of carrying North Korean nuclear or missile technology.

The toughened sanctions come a week after an international report concluded that a North Korean torpedo sank the 1,200-ton Cheonan in March, killing 46 sailors. Japan banned almost all trade with Kim Jong Il’s regime last year in response to a second nuclear weapon test and several missile launches.

“The cabinet has decided to take these new measures prompted by the unforgivable torpedo attack,” Hirano said. Japan also reduced the amount of money an individual can legally take into North Korea to 100,000 yen from 300,000 yen, he said.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama will hold a two-day summit with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao starting tomorrow on South Korea’s Jeju Island. Japan and the U.S. are pushing Wen to acknowledge and condemn North Korea’s role in sinking the ship.

Koreans in Japan

Japan is home to about 589,000 Korean nationals, based on 2008 data, most of them the descendents of forced laborers brought back from the peninsula during Japan’s 1910-1945 occupation. South Koreans number almost 400,000 and North Koreans about 40,000, according to the Korean Residents Union, a pro-South group in Tokyo. Chosensoren, a Japan-based group that supports North Korea, doesn’t disclose its membership numbers.

North Korean residents in Japan have sent billions of yen in money and goods back home to relatives since the 1953 end of the Korean War, much of it derived from their operation of pachinko gambling parlors. Sanctions imposed last year and in 2006 have reduce the amount.

“Japan has imposed so many sanctions in the past that the new measures won’t have much impact,” said Pyon Jin Il, author of the “The Truth of Kim Jong Il” and chief editor of the Tokyo-based monthly Korea Report. “This is more symbolic, to show the world that Japan is doing something.”

In the 11 months through February, 55 million yen was wired or brought to North Korea from Japan, down from 280 million yen in the April to March 2006 fiscal year, according to Ministry of Finance data.

Trade between Japan and North Korea fell 97 percent to 793 million yen in 2008 — all in Japanese exports — from 21.4 billion yen in 2005. Last year’s sanctions added to a previous ban on exports of luxury goods imposed in 2006 following the communist nation’s first nuclear test.

Read full story here:
Japan Tightens Control on Sending Cash to North Korea
Bloomberg
Takashi Hirokawa and Sachiko Sakamaki
5/28/2010

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