Archive for the ‘Chongryun’ Category

Japan and DPRK announce agreement on santions/abductions

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Here is the official statement published by KCNA (and KCNA Watch):

Substance of Agreement at DPRK-Japan Inter-Governmental Talks

Pyongyang, May 30 (KCNA) — Substance of the agreement reached at the DPRK-Japan inter-governmental talks held in Stockholm, Sweden on May 26-28, 2014 is as follows:

Both sides had an in-depth discussion on the issues of settling the inglorious past, settling pending issues and normalizing the bilateral relations according to the DPRK-Japan Pyongyang Declaration.

The Japanese side requested the DPRK side to conduct a survey of all Japanese including the remains and graves of the Japanese who died in the territory of the DPRK before and after the year 1945 and the remaining Japanese, Japanese spouses, victims of abduction and missing Japanese.

The DPRK side appreciated the Japanese side’s recognition of the efforts made by the DPRK to settle the abduction issue in the past and expressed the willingness to conduct a comprehensive and full-scale survey for all the Japanese for the final settlement of all issues related to Japanese though there is its previous stand.

According to this, the Japanese side voiced its intent to finally lift the measures against the DPRK (sanctions) which it is slapping on its own at present. (The measures taken as regards resolutions of the UNSC are not included.)

The action measures to be taken by both sides are as follows:

Both sides decided to implement the following specific measures at an early date and have a close consultation to do so:

-Japanese side

First, the Japanese side re-clarified its will to settle its inglorious past, solve the pending issues and normalize the relations together with the DPRK side according to the DPRK-Japan Pyongyang Declaration and agreed to take a sincere approach towards building confidence between the two countries and settling issues of improving the bilateral relations.

Second, it agreed to lift restrictions on visits of persons, special measure of restrictions taken against the DPRK regarding money remittance and money carried by visitors and the embargo on the entry of the DPRK-flagged ships with a humanitarian mission into the Japanese ports once the DPRK side sets up a “special investigation committee” for the comprehensive survey and starts it.

Third, it highly appreciated the cooperation rendered by the DPRK side in realizing the visits to ancestral graves in the DPRK by bereaved families of Japan as regards the issue of the remains of Japanese and agreed to take necessary measures, furthering the consultation with the DPRK side in connection with the handling of the remains of Japanese and their graves left uncared in the territory of the DPRK and the visits to the ancestral graves.

Fourth, the Japanese side agreed to continue the survey of the Koreans who went missing in the past as requested by the DPRK side and take relevant steps through discussion with the DPRK side.

Fifth, it agreed to have a sincere discussion on the issue of the status of the Koreans in Japan according to the DPRK-Japan Pyongyang Declaration.

Sixth, in order to confirm issues arising in the comprehensive and full-scale survey, it agreed to take appropriate measures including the meeting with personnel concerned from the Japanese side and sharing of relevant information about the issues, raised by the DPRK side.

Seventh, it agreed to examine humanitarian aid to the DPRK at an appropriate time from a humanitarian stand.

-DPRK side

First, the DPRK side agreed to conduct a comprehensive and full-scale survey of all Japanese including the remains and graves of those who died in the territory of the DPRK before and after the year 1945, remaining Japanese, Japanese spouses, victims of abduction and missing Japanese.

Second, it agreed to conduct a simultaneous survey of all matters raised, not just giving priority to some of them.

Third, it agreed to set up the “special investigation committee” invested with special mandate (mandate to survey all organs) with a view to conducting specific and in-depth survey of all matters.

Fourth, it agreed to inform the Japanese side of the survey and confirmation of Japanese when necessary including the issues of the remains of Japanese and their graves, remaining Japanese and Japanese spouses. It agreed to have an appropriate discussion with the Japanese side on the issue of handling the remains unearthed in the course of work and the issue of course of action concerning the survivors including their repatriation.

Fifth, as for the abduction issue it agreed to inform the Japanese side of the survey of the abductees and missing Japanese when necessary. When survivors are found in the course of survey, it agreed to inform the Japanese side of it and discuss the issue of the course of action and take measures in the direction of sending them back to Japan.

Sixth, in order to ensure the confirmation of the issues raised by the Japanese side as the survey progresses, it agreed to take appropriate measures for stay in the DPRK of the Japanese personnel concerned and meet with persons concerned and visits to the places concerned while sharing relevant information with the Japanese side.

Seventh, it agreed to make a prompt survey, further consultation of issues arising in this course in various forms and methods and take appropriate measures.

Unverified reports claim there are some minor discrepancies between the Japanese and Korean understandings of the statements. Reportedly the Japanese side has agreed to remove the restrictions at a point of time when the “special investigation committee” has been established and investigations have been initiated, not simply when a committee was established. Secondly the Mangyongbong-92 will remain unauthorized to enter Japan. Finally, the Japanese will do nothing to intervene in the sale of the Chongryun (Shosen Soren) headquarters.

Here is additional coverage:

1. 38 North

2. Yonhap

3. The Diplomat

4. Associated Press

5. Stephan Haggard

6. Japan Times

7. NK News

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Chongryun education subsidies

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

 

Pictured above (Google Earth): (L) The Chongryon headquarters building in Tokyo. (R) The Chongryon’s Korea University

UPDATE 8 (2013-10-31): According to the Choson Ilbo, Yokohama has cut Chongryon education subsidies:

The Japanese city of Yokohama has decided to stop annual subsidies to pro-North Korean schools this year, citing North Korea’s nuclear test and other provocations, the Tokyo Shimbun daily reported Wednesday.

The schools are affiliated with the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan or Chongryon, a Pyongyang mouthpiece.

The education committee in Yokohama informed three of the Chongryon schools in the city last week that they would not be receiving the subsidy of 2.5 million yen set aside in this year’s budget.

They include two primary and one secondary school.

Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi said she is halting the subsidies as long as the issues of “North Korea’s nuclear weapons development and abduction of Japanese citizens remain unresolved.”

Earlier in February, the Japanese government cut Chongryon schools out of federal subsidies. Seven regional governments, including Saitama and Hiroshima, have followed suit.

Read the full story here:
Yokohama Stops Subsidies for Chongryon Schools
Choson Ilbo
2013-10-31

UPDATE 7 (2013-6-15): The Economist follows up with a story on the state of the Chongryun schools in Japan:

Japan’s government excluded the schools from a scheme to waive tuition fees in other schools two years ago. Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, is now focusing on public funding. Tokyo has led the way, ending its 6m yen ($63,000) annual subsidy to this Korean high school. Local authorities around Japan are following suit. “We’ll survive, but many won’t,” laments the headmaster, Shin Gil-ung.

The funding assault is part of what may be the end-game in a low-level war between Japanese conservatives and the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, known as Chongryon. The organisation, which runs the schools, is North Korea’s de facto embassy and is suspected of involvement in the North’s bizarre abduction of over a dozen Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s. The Japanese want the surviving citizens returned. The North Koreans say they are all dead.

The schools and the community they serve are in deep trouble anyway. Thousands of Koreans are abandoning their ethnic identities to take Japanese citizenship. Enrolment at Mr Shin’s school has fallen to 600 students from a high of 2,300 when he attended in the late 1960s. Parents pay for 80% of the institution’s costs; cash from North Korea, once a lifeline, has dried up.

UPDATE 6 (2011-10-24): According to the Daily NK:

The network of schools in Japan operated by the General Association of North Korean Residents in Japan, or Chongryon, saw the overall scale of its government funding shrink by 27% in the year 2009-2010, according to a report today from Sankei Shimbun.

Documents reveal that in 2009, ‘Chosun Schools’ received 549.73 million Yen ($7.2 million) in support, but by 2010 this had shrunk by 147.29 million Yen ($1.9 million) to 424.3 million Yen ($5.5 million).

Chosun Schools have courted controversy in recent times with assertions that have angered the Japanese authorities, in particular stating in history textbooks that “The Japanese authorities are emphasizing the abductees issue to cultivate anti-Chosun discord,” but also by calling the 1987 Korean Air disaster a fabrication.

The greatest reductions in funding were felt in four places; Tokyo, Osaka, Saitama and Fukuoka. Two, Tokyo and Saitama, gave no funding at all during 2010, with Osaka authorities explaining their choice in terms of cutting links with Chongryon as an organization which places portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il on the walls of classrooms.

Elsewhere, consistently falling student numbers have also reduced the applicability of central funding for the schools.

UPDATE 5 (2011-6-3): The Chongryun schools seem to have corrected a number of historical points to please the Japanese.  According to the Choson Ilbo:

Pro-North Korean high schools in Japan changed textbook entries about North Korea’s kidnapping of Japanese nationals and the bombing of Korean Air passenger plane in 1987 to receive local government funding, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported Thursday.

Kanagawa Prefecture on Wednesday said pro-Pyongyang high schools in the prefecture removed from their modern history textbook the sentence “Japan exaggerated the kidnap issue,” and the entry claiming South Korea “fabricated” the bombing was amended to the bombing “occurred.”

The textbook is used in 10 pro-North Korean high schools in Japan. Kanagawa Prefecture added the modified version of the textbook was checked during a survey of high schools as part of a national tuition fee waiver program at the end of May.

Kanagawa Governor Yuji Kuroiwa said on Thursday, “We agreed to provide 63 million yen of funding to the schools as they promised to use the supplementary book that says North Korea ‘officially admitted’ the kidnapping, and reflect this when the textbook is revised in 2013. Whether we will continue to provide funding after next year depends on the teaching in these schools.”

Kanagawa Prefecture withheld financial assistance to five pro-Pyongyang primary, middle and high schools in the prefecture last year, and demanded modification of history textbooks and transparent management of schools.

Shin Kil-woong, who leads a group of head teachers at high schools run by the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Koreans in Japan or Chongryon, said, “We decided to remove the parts on the kidnapping issue to seek understanding from Japanese people.”

UPDATE 4 (2011-3-8): Congryun education subsidies in Japan appear to be on the wane again. According to Kyodo:

Students of a pro-Pyongyang high school in Tokyo called on the government Sunday to include their school in the national tuition waiver program.

The Democratic Party of Japan-led government had planned for the program to cover pro-Pyongyang schools by the end of the current fiscal year through March, but Prime Minister Naoto Kan suspended procedures to expand the program in the wake of North Korea’s shelling of a South Korean island in November.

Pro-Pyongyang schools have close ties with the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon), which serves as the de facto government mission for North Korea in Japan because of the absence of diplomatic relations.

“We would like to study with the same rights as Japanese high school students,” said Pak Su Gi, 18, in a speech addressed to Kan at a graduation ceremony at the pro-Pyongyang school in Tokyo’s Kita Ward.

The students of the school have been collecting signatures for a petition and held a march in the past year.

“We feel frustrated because our voices have not reached the government,” said Om Ri Hwa, another 18-year-old graduate of the Tokyo school.

The government has since last April waived tuition fees for students attending public high schools in line with the ruling party’s pledge in the August 2009 general election.

UPDATE 3 (2011-2-5): Chongryon schools’ history spin hurt tuition waiver bid. According to the Japan Times:

Flipping through a copy of a recently obtained Korean history textbook used in pro-Pyongyang junior high schools in Japan, journalist Ryo Hagiwara points his finger to a section describing how North Korea’s founding father, Kim Il Sung, and his Korean People’s Revolutionary Army defeated the Japanese occupation forces in 1945 and drove them off the Korean Peninsula.

“Well, this reads as if Kim and his army single-handedly liberated the North, but this is not true. It’s a known historical fact that Kim was an officer of the Soviet army’s 88th Brigade at the time,” Hagiwara said.

According to outside historians, the KPRA was a North Korean propaganda term for what was actually the Second Army Corps of a Chinese communist-led force that Kim was a part of during the 1930s and early 1940s before he joined the Soviet army.

“It’s as if students are studying Kim’s biography, not real history,” Hagiwara said, explaining that out of the textbook’s 119 pages, 62 are dedicated to Kim Il Sung and his family.

The expert on North Korea is heading a group translating the textbook into Japanese to highlight its content for the Japanese public. He expects the group’s version to be published later this month.

Hagiwara is a proponent of abolishing all subsidies for these schools, which he claims are giving students distorted history lessons that glorify and instill loyalty to Kim Jong Il’s hermit regime, and have strong ties with an organization with direct links to the dictatorship — Chongryon, the Association of Korean Residents in Japan.

It appears his argument has been gaining ground in recent months following North Korea’s bombing of a South Korean island in November, which prompted the ruling Democratic Party of Japan to temporarily freeze procedures for including pro-Pyongyang schools in its high school tuition waiver program.

Under a law that took effect last April, students at public high schools are exempt from paying tuition. Private schools and other schools equivalent to high schools receive between ¥118,800 to ¥237,600 per student annually, depending on their household income.

Foreign schools and international schools are eligible for the tuition waiver program if they are considered equivalent to Japanese high schools after checks with their home countries, or if their curricula are accredited by international organizations.

But while the DPJ initially planned on including the pro-Pyongyang high schools, the increased tensions in the region in recent months have led Prime Minister Naoto Kan to apply the brakes.

Making things worse for these schools, the increased publicity has prompted several municipalities to review the annual grants they have been doling out to them for decades.

Reports from the education ministry and the National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea (NARKN) show that 27 prefectures have been handing out a total of around ¥800 million a year to pro-Pyongyang schools.

Based on the schools’ enrollment, they would get additional funding of around ¥200 million under the central government’s high school tuition waiver program.

According to the education ministry, 73 pro-Pyongyang schools with an estimated 8,300 students were operating in Japan as of 2009. Of these, 10 were high schools with around 1,800 students in total.

In late January, Osaka Prefecture decided against distributing the ¥200 million in subsidies it has budgeted for fiscal 2011 for the 10 pro-Pyongyang schools within its jurisdiction.

Osaka, which has been providing financial aid to pro-Pyongyang schools since 1974, cited the schools’ reluctance to respond to guidelines the prefecture had set under Gov. Toru Hashimoto as the reason behind the decision. The guidelines include severing ties with Chongryon and removing photographs of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il from classrooms.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which has been handing out approximately ¥24 million a year to 10 pro-Pyongyang schools, has also suspended grants for fiscal 2011.

“Municipal subsidies to pro-Pyongyang schools have been handed out for decades without ever being widely reported, but the controversy over the DPJ’s tuition waiver program dragged it into the spotlight,” said Ryuichiro Hirata, chief executive of NARKN, a nationwide nonprofit organization working to secure the return of people abducted by the North.

Hirata said history textbooks used in pro-Pyongyang schools nationwide are edited and carefully checked in Pyongyang, and he believes Japan would send the North the wrong message if it hands money to its schools while issuing various other sanctions.

According to “Modern Korean History — Level 3,” used in pro-Pyongyang high schools and translated into Japanese and published last year by Hagiwara and his organization, the Association of Experts Against Spending Tax Money on Pro-Pyongyang High Schools, South Korea and the United States were responsible for starting the Korean War.

This claim is contrary to common knowledge that the North Korean invasion of South Korea in 1950 was the direct catalyst.

The textbook also states that the 1987 bombing of Korean Air Flight 858 by two North Korean agents, which killed 115 people, was a conspiracy hatched in South Korea to help Roh Tae Woo win the presidential election.

Lee Young Hwa, an economics professor at Kansai University and a North Korea expert, said it is fundamentally wrong that subsidies are being given to pro-Pyongyang schools, which operate under the guidance of Kim Jong Il’s Korean Workers’ Party.

“Unless Japan is a dictatorship, it should not be spending public money to fund schools operated by the KWP,” Lee said, arguing that such schools should only be allowed to continue operations if they severe ties with the North and operate under the principles of democracy.

But there are many who oppose cutting off grants to such schools because of diplomatic tension, arguing it would violate the children’s right to an education and could foster ethnic discrimination.

Pro-Pyongyang schools have been operating in Japan since the 1950s by Koreans who remained here after being conscripted by the Japanese military during the war, or who came here to work or were brought over for forced labor.

Lee Ji Seon, a 27-year-old ethnic Korean resident of Japan, received his elementary, junior high and high school education at pro-Pyongyang schools in Shizuoka and Aichi prefectures. He now works at a Japanese television station after attending Beijing University and studying in the U.S.

Lee said he believes a healthy society should guarantee freedom of thought and belief, and cutting off subsidies to pro-Pyongyang schools would deprive children of their right to an education.

“What would these children think in the future about Japanese society if they are excluded” from receiving grants, Lee said.

He said that during Korean history lessons, he studied Kim Il Sung’s biography and his battle against the Japanese occupation forces, but said he didn’t feel pressured to assume loyalty to Pyongyang, nor did he feel “brainwashed,” as Hiroshi Nakai, former minister in charge of the North Korean abduction issue, once asserted.

“But what’s notable is that many classes were taught in Korean, aimed at nurturing ethnic consciousness,” he said, claiming that world and Japanese history classes were taught free of any propaganda.

Park Il, an economics professor at Osaka City University’s graduate school, is critical of Japan for its indifference toward international schools in general, and said it is “unbelievable” that municipalities such as Osaka are trying to meddle with the content of textbooks used in pro-Pyongyang schools.

“It’s like overseas Japanese schools being ordered by the respective local governments to revise sections in textbooks that mention the Imperial system,” he said.

“Furthermore, North Korea’s bombing of Yeonpyeong Island is unrelated to students studying in pro-Pyongyang schools — I believe it’s outrageous that public support of education could be cut off due to political friction,” he said.

With the March 31 end of fiscal 2010 and the deadline for granting subsidies for schools approaching, it appears certain the debate will intensify in the weeks to come.

Kim Myung Soo, a sociology professor at Kwansei Gakuin University, said it is likely pro-Pyongyang schools will sue the government if the subsidies for fiscal 2010 aren’t distributed.

Kim, who attended a pro-Pyongyang elementary school in Fukuoka Prefecture before switching over to a Japanese school, said it is essential that Japan work toward fighting racial discrimination and protecting foreign residents and minorities, rather than fostering ethnic divides.

“The government is acting emotionally and based on anti-North Korean sentiment. Cutting off subsidies will only send out the message that Japan doesn’t care about human rights,” he said.

UPDATE 2 (2010-11-10): Apparently Tokyo will not take the Chongryon school curricula into account in determining eligibility for subsidies. According to Japan Today:

The Liberal Democratic Party adopted a resolution Tuesday opposing the education ministry’s policy of not factoring in curricula when considering a tuition waiver for schools catering to pro-Pyongyang Korean residents of Japan.

Shigeru Yokota, whose daughter was abducted by North Korea in 1977 at age 13, also voiced opposition to the policy, saying, ‘‘Giving subsidies to (schools) that provide wrong education will cause trouble in the future.’‘

The main opposition party adopted the resolution at a joint meeting of intra-party panels on education and abduction issues. Yokota, 77, attended the gathering.

The government led by the Democratic Party of Japan has since April waived tuition for students who attend public senior high schools in line with the party’s pledge in the August 2009 general election.

Private and other schools equivalent to senior high schools also receive stipends for their students under the national program, but the pro-Pyongyang schools have so far been excluded, pending the establishment of criteria.

The ministry said Friday it has decided not to make the curricula of the pro-Pyongyang schools a factor in deciding whether they are eligible for subsidies under the tuition waiver program.

UPDATE 1  (2010-11-3): According to the AP:

The Japanese education ministry has decided to ask pro- Pyongyang high schools in Japan to use Japanese textbooks of politics and economics when the government includes such high schools in its tuition waiver program, government sources said Tuesday.

The decision is apparently in response to concerns expressed by some lawmakers who have claimed that anti-Japan education is being conducted at these pro-Pyongyang ethnic schools for Korean residents in Japan.

The Japanese government is expected to formally approve a proposal by an education ministry panel to include pro-Pyongyang high schools in Japan in its tuition waiver program, possibly this week.

Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Yoshiaki Takaki appeared to have won the ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s approval for the move at a meeting with DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada on Tuesday night, the sources said.

Given a law to respect the autonomy of individual schools’ education policies, including those of pro-Pyongyang schools, the Japanese government does not oblige the schools to purchase Japanese textbooks to benefit from the tuition waiver program, the sources said.

But given concerns about the inclusion of pro-Pyongyang schools in the tuition waiver program, the government will encourage students of these schools to use Japanese textbooks and learn the basics of Japanese society, such as the independence of legislative, administrative and judicial powers, they said.

Takaki is expected to require schools benefiting from the tuition waiver program to submit a document proving that money offered under the program was spent to cover students’ tuition, the sources said.

The government intends to formally decide on the inclusion of pro- Pyongyang schools in the tuition waiver program by the end of this year, and if it is decided, students will be eligible for the program, retroactive to April.

Under a law that took effect in April, senior high school students at Japanese public schools are exempt from tuition fees, while private and other schools equivalent to high schools receive between 118,800 yen to 237,600 yen annually per student depending on household income.

Foreign schools, such as international schools, are eligible for the tuition waiver program if they are recognized as equivalent to Japanese senior high schools after checks with their respective home countries, or if their curricula are accredited by international organizations.

But pro-Pyongyang schools have been excluded as, unlike other foreign schools, it could not be confirmed that they were equivalent to Japanese schools as Japan and North Korea do not have diplomatic ties.

The education ministry set up the panel to consider the eligibility criteria for the tuition waiver.

According to the education ministry, there are 10 pro-Pyongyang high schools in Japan, with an estimated 1,800 students.

Read the full stories here:
Pro-Pyongyang school wants tuitions waived
Kyodo News (via Japan Times)
3/8/2011

Recent tension, pro-North schools’ history spin hurt tuition waiver bid
The Japan Times
Alex Martin
2/5/2011

LDP opposes funding policy regarding pro-Pyongyang schools’ curricula
Japan Today
11/10/2010

Gov’t to ask pro-Pyongyang schools to buy Japanese text books
Associated Press (via Breitbart)
11/3/2010

ORIGINAL POST (2010-8-26): According to KBS (h/t NK news.org):

A Japanese daily says schools in Japan run by a pro-North Korean organization will also soon benefit from high school tuition assistance.

The Mainichi Shimbun says that the schools, which currently do not qualify for subsidies due to their disputed curricula glorifying North Korea, will soon be included on a list of institutions that qualify for state tuition assistance.

The ten such schools, which are operated by an organization of Japanese residents of North Korean descent, have a total of 18-hundred students.

Read the full sotry here:
‘Pro-NK Schools in Japan to Get State Subsidies’
KBS
8/26/2010

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Chongryon headquarters to be sold for debts

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Pictured above (Google Earth): The Chongryon headquarters building in Tokyo ( 35.697001°, 139.743435°).

UPDATE 8 (2014-11-7): Chongryun has lost its appeal for the forced sale of its Tokyo headquarters. According to a media report:

Chongryun, the association that represents North Korean residents of Japan, is running out of ways to keep its most prized asset after the Supreme Court ruled that the sale of its headquarters to a Japanese real estate developer would go ahead.

The dismissal of the appeal by Chongryun represents “a serious loss of face” for the organisation and the North Korean leadership, according to analysts, and could even serve to weaken links between the regime’s citizens in Japan and their homeland.

“They have not made any official comments yet but it is clear that this will be a major disappointment because it is such a serious loss of face,” Ken Kato, a Tokyo-based human rights activist, said.

“I also hope that North Koreans living in Japan … are able to stand up against the regime. Many of them have relatives in North Korea and they are effectively held as hostages to ensure that the people here send back ‘donations’ that are then spent on developing missiles and nuclear weapons,” Kato said. “I hope they wake up to the reality.”

Representatives of Chongryun could not be contacted but sources said last month that retaining a building that served as an embassy in Japan had been made a priority by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Chongryun leader Ho Jong-man visited North Korea for the first time in eight years in October and, although he was not able to meet him in person, was handed a personal letter from Kim.

One of the instructions in the letter was to secure the continued use of the Chongryun headquarters in Tokyo.

The Supreme Court’s decision makes that target effectively impossible and will not go down well in Pyongyang.

The legal decision is in favour of Marunaka Holdings, which had lodged a bid of 2.21 billion yen (HK$149.5 million) for the building and the prime 2,387 square metre plot that it occupies in Chiyoda Ward.

Moves to sell the building began in March after the government-backed Resolution and Collection called in loans amounting to more than 62 billion yen that it had extended to the residents’ association.

Chongryun initially attempted to sell the property to a Kagoshima-based religious order that would permit the organisation to remain in residence. It was later alleged that the temple had links to underworld groups. The deal fell through when the temple was unable to raise the funds.

The next bidder was a mysterious Mongolian company known as Avar that was using an address in Ulan Bator but had no presence at the building and had never previously purchased a property in Japan.

Analysts believe it was a front for the North Korean government. That transaction was blocked by authorities in Japan for a lack of transparency, triggering a third round of bidding.

UPDATE 7 (2014-4-11): DPRK claims to send funds to Chongryun. According to KCNA:

Kim Jong Un Sends Educational Aid Fund and Stipends to Children of Koreans in Japan

Pyongyang, April 11 (KCNA) — Supreme leader Kim Jong Un sent educational aid fund and stipends amounting to 207.8 million yen to the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan for the democratic national education of children of Koreans in Japan on the occasion of the 102nd birth anniversary of President Kim Il Sung.

The educational aid fund and stipends sent by Generalissimos Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and Marshal Kim Jong Un in 160 installments total 47,331,150,390 yen.

Since the Mangyongbong-92 is no longer traveling the East Sea/Sea of Japan, I wonder how the funds will be transferred.

The Chongryun have seen bad financial news lately:

1. Chongryun headquarters in central Tokyo was recently auctioned off for debts incurred helping the DPRK get through the Arduous March.

2. Chongryon schools are not eligible for some Japanese education subsidies.

UPDATE 6 (2014-3-29): KCNA reports (surprise!) that the DPRK is not happy about the sale of the Chongryun headquarters building. Below are two related articles:

Japanese Authorities Warned of Their Moves to Seize Korean Hall of Chongryon

Pyongyang, March 29 (KCNA) — The Committee for Aiding Overseas Compatriots of Korea made public a statement on Friday denouncing the Japanese authorities for their extremely dangerous moves to stifle the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon) and Koreans in Japan.

On March 24 the Japanese authorities took such fascist action as instigating the Tokyo District Court to make an illegal decision to allow the sale of the land and building of the Korean Hall of Chongryon.

This is a wanton violation of the dignity and existence right of Chongryon and Koreans in Japan and a grave infringement upon the sovereignty of the DPRK, the statement said, adding:

The Japanese authorities are feigning ignorance of the fact, noting that the decision was made by a “judiciary organ” in a bid to evade the blame for seizing the Korean hall. But this is no more than an excuse to cover up their sinister criminal purpose.

It is their sinister political scenario to deprive the Central Standing Committee of Chongryon of the base of its activities and thus weaken the authority of Chongryon, a model of Juche-based overseas Koreans’ movement, and dampen the elated patriotic enthusiasm of Koreans so as to stamp out the movement of Koreans in Japan.

The statement went on:

Now that the Japanese authorities deliberately touched off distrust at a time when confidence-building is required for improving the DPRK-Japan relations more urgently than ever before the DPRK is compelled to take corresponding measures.

If the Japanese authorities persist in their moves to seize the Korean Hall despite the warning of the DPRK, they will be wholly responsible for the consequences to be entailed by them.

Illegal Decision of Tokyo District Court Slammed

Pyongyang, March 29 (KCNA) — The Tokyo District Court made a decision to allow the sale of the land and building of the Korean Hall of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon) under the backstage wire-pulling of the Japanese authorities. The spokesman for the Democratic Lawyers Association of Korea Saturday released a statement disclosing the illegality of the decision.

The statement says:

The illegality of the decision finds its vivid manifestation in that the court selected a disqualified company as a successful bidder by fraud and swindle.

The Tokyo District Court had delayed the announcement of the results of auction of the Korean Hall of Chongryon, which was made in October of 2013. On March 20, it reopened the tenders for it for no reason all of a sudden and made the decision to allow the sale to the Marunaka Holdings Co. Ltd., Japan.

As far as the above-said company is concerned, it had already been disqualified as it underbid others in October last year and took back bid bond from the court.

In particular, it is a precedent of the Japanese courts that in case the relevant court returned the bid bond to a disqualified company it would not make a decision to allow the sale to it.

Therefore, it was a crude violation of the law in every aspect that the court chose the above-said company as a successful bidder.

The illegality of the decision of the Tokyo District Court is also evidenced by the double-dealing attitude of the Resolution and Collection Corporation, a creditor.

When the issue of the Korean Hall presented itself, the Corporation made a hostile and discriminating demand that Chongryon should repay a total amount plus interest though it has settled issues with other debtors in a friendly manner.

But the Corporation kept mum about the decision of the Tokyo District Court to sell the Korean Hall at a price less than half the actual one.

The Japanese authorities has long regarded the Korean Hall of Chongryon on which the flag of the DPRK is fluttering as a thorn in their flesh and run the whole gamut of plots to seize it.

That was why the Tokyo District Court staged an unprecedented farce in disregard of the Japanese law, precedents of the courts and practices of the basic procedures for tenders

The Democratic Lawyers Association of Korea categorically rejects the decision of the Tokyo District Court and declares internally and externally that the illegal decision is invalid, the statement says.

The Japanese authorities had better halt their moves to seize the Korean Hall, though belatedly, if it thinks of its face as a “law-governed state” even a bit and has real intention to improve the relations with the DPRK, the statement concludes.

UPDATE 5 (2014-3-24): A Japanese estate agency has been approved to buy the property. According to  NTD:

A court ruled Monday that a Japanese estate agency could buy the Tokyo property that serves as North Korea’s de facto embassy, after an earlier bid fell through.

The decision from the Tokyo District Court drew an immediate and angry reaction from Chongryon, the organisation that represents North Korean interests in Japan in the absence of diplomatic ties.

“This is an unfair decision. We cannot accept it,” said an organisation spokesman, adding that an appeal would be lodged.

The site — a 2,390-square-metre (25,725-square-feet) plot and 10-storey building occupied by Chongryon — was put up for auction after it was seized by authorities over unpaid debts.

Monday’s ruling gave real estate firm Marunaka Holdings the right to buy the building for 2.21 billion yen ($22 million), after a winning bid from an obscure Mongolia-registered company fell apart.

The Avar Limited Liability Company had won an auction in October with a bid of 5.01 billion yen, beating Marunaka’s offer. But the court disqualified the offer several months later reportedly due to flawed documentation amid questions over whether the firm had links to Pyongyang.

Japanese law bars an organisation forced to sell assets from taking part in an auction of them.

The Japanese firm is planning to remove the North Korean-linked organisation from the property, reports said, but it was unclear if it still planned to go through with the purchase following the judgement.

Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Koreans live in Japan, mostly a legacy of those who emigrated or were forced to move to Japan during its 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean peninsula.

About 10 percent are believed to be affiliated with Chongryon, which charges that the community is persecuted by authorities and harassed by right-wing activists.

UPDATE 4 (2014-1-23): NK News reports that the mysterious Mongolian firm has been blocked from purchasing the former headquarters building.

A Japanese court has blocked a Mongolia-based company’s bid to buy the Tokyo headquarters of the main pro-North Korea organization in Japan, Chongryon.

After months of screening, the Tokyo District Court announced on Thursday that due to purchase irregularities it would not allow the Ulan Bator-based Avar Limited Liability Company to purchase the property, which still serves as the headquarters for Japan’s main pro-North Korea organization.

The Mongolian firm, which had previously won an October 2013 auction for the building with a 5.01 billion yen (U.S. $48 million bid) bid, was rejected by the court because a certificate it submitted to support the purchase appeared to be a color photocopy and did not bear the official seal of the Mongolian government.

“It is a company on paper,” Hideshi Takesada, an expert on regional security at Takushoku University in Tokyo, told NK News on Thursday.

“With the bid tendering highly unlikely to be successful, Chongryon will be able to stay at the headquarters building and use the land. In a sense, the Japanese government is doing a favor for North Korea,” Takesada said. Takesada is a former executive director of the National Institute for Defense Studies in Tokyo, the Japanese Ministry of Defense’s think-tank.

UPDATE 3 (2013-10-22): Apparently funding fell through for the Buddhist group, and the building was put up for sale again. A Mongolian firm stepped forward to buy the building, but this was halted over fears that the new firm was a front for North Korean interests. According to the South China Morning Post:

The Tokyo District Court acted yesterday in response to a petition for an injunction on the sale filed by Ken Kato, director of Human Rights in Asia. Kato’s request pointed out that would-be buyer Avar was registered at an address in Ulan Bator, but the company apparently had no presence there.

When a Japanese television team arrived at the Mongolian address to ask about the purchase of the 10-storey building that is now occupied by Chongryon, the organisation that represents North Korean residents of Japan, and the prime plot it occupies in Chiyoda Ward, they were met by a bemused woman.

She told the TV crew her family had been living in the apartment for seven years and had never heard of Avar.

“I told the court that this was a typical case of money laundering and that the court cannot permit the transaction to go ahead,” Kato told the South China Morning Post. “The address is fake and the registration of the company must therefore be illegal.”

No deadline has been set for the court to make a decision on whether the transaction will go ahead, but Kato is confident any investigation will lead back to the North Korean leader. “Kim Jong-un wants to save face and not lose this property and I’m sure the decision to pay more than the market value is a case of a dictator’s whim,” he said.

The minimum price for bidders for the property was set at 2.13 billion yen (HK$168 million), while a previous deal to buy the building in May for 4.52 billion yen fell through when the buyer, the chief priest of Saifukuji Temple, was unable to raise the funds by the deadline. Kato said it was therefore curious that the latest sale price was 5.01 billion yen.

“The buyer could have got it for a lot less than that and I believe they offered so much in the hope no answers would be asked and the real purchaser could remain anonymous,” he said.

That was always likely to be a vain hope, given the interest in the property, which was put on the market in March by the government-backed Resolution and Collection Corp. in an effort to recoup loans of 62 billion yen that it extended to the residents’ association after the collapse of a number of financial institutions for North Korean residents of Japan.

The involvement of a Mongolian firm also raised eyebrows in Japan, as no Mongolian firm has ever purchased a building in Tokyo and there are very few Mongolian companies with enough cash to carry out such a deal.

As well as the suggestion that Avar is a front company for the North Korean regime, there has also been speculation that the Mongolian government might be involved as part of the burgeoning relationship between the two regimes.

UPDATE 2 (2013-3-27): A Buddhist order on good terms with the Chongryun won the property auction and will allow the Chongryun to remain on the premises.  According to the Japan Times:

The Kagoshima temple offered ¥4.5 billion, the highest among four bidders, to acquire the land and the Chongryon building.

“We will keep the building as it is and make it a base of harmony among ethnic groups in Asia, including North Korea,” said Saifuku Temple leader Ekan Ikeguchi.

“The function of our headquarters will be maintained for the time being, at least,” a Chongryon official said. “We feel relieved.”

The government-backed Resolution and Collection Corp. put the premises out to tender to recoup loans of about ¥62.7 billion it made to Chongryon.

UPDATE 1 (2013-3-13): The Wall Street Journal’s Japan Real Time reports that the auction has finally begun on the Chongryun’s headquarters building in central Tokyo. According to the article:

Bidding has begun for the repossessed central headquarters of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, North Korea’s de-facto embassy in the country. It’s an attempt by the Japanese government to get back some of the ¥62.7 billion owed by the pro-Pyongyang group, also known as Chongryon, and comes as the reclusive regime faces a new round of sanctions and international condemnation following its third nuclear test.

Built in 1986, the 10-story office building has two basement floors and is situated on a 2,390 square-meter piece of land in a prime location in central Tokyo. The Tokyo District Court said in its assessment of the building that some portions of it showed signs of age-related deterioration as well as damage incurred during the massive 2011 earthquake that shook northeastern Japan.

Analysts say that as the auctioneer’s hammer falls, so falls the fortunes of the once-influential group.

“Losing its central headquarters is symbolic of Chongryon’s decline,” said Hajime Izumi, Professor of International Relations at Shizuoka University. “While the organization will survive, I expect it to face increasing difficulty maintaining itself,” he said.

Founded in 1955 as an organization representing the pro-North Korean members of Japan’s ethnic Korean minority, Chongryon has been responsible for pumping out North Korean propaganda and has been operating banks, a newspaper and numerous schools for Korean residents in Japan.

The group has also been a reliable source of hard cash for Pyongyang, with members sending back a large portion of revenue accumulated through numerous “pachinko” gambling parlors and real-estate businesses operated across the nation.

But Yoshifu Arita, an upper house lawmaker in Japan’s parliament, said the organization faced severe head-winds in 2002 when the late Kim Jong Il admitted during a meeting with then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi that North Korean agents had kidnapped Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s.

“This led to a massive public backlash toward North Korea as well the organization,” he said. “It led to many disillusioned members leaving Chongryon as pressure on them mounted.”

Chongryong’s debt stems from a network of credit unions for pro-North Korean residents of Japan that collapsed and had to be bailed out by the government-backed Resolution and Collection Corporation in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The debt has been transferred to Chongryon, which has been sued by the RCC for repayment.

A 72-year-old South Korean businessman living in Kobe, who used to be affiliated with Chongryon, added that the younger generation of Koreans in Japan also felt less of a link and patriotism toward Pyongyang. And with Japan’s long economic malaise following the burst of its debt bubble in the early 1990s, “pro-Pyongyang supporters don’t have the cash or the will to lend a hand to the organization, even when its headquarters are about to be sold off,” added the businessman, who asked not to be identified.

Bids for the building, which began Tuesday, will be accepted through March 19. The winner of the auction, which Chongryon cannot participate in, is expected to be decided on March 29.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-7-26): The Atlantic has a great piece on recent developments with the General Association of Koreans in Japan (Chongryong or Chosen Soren):

In late June, a Japanese court ordered Chongryon, a business, education, and banking organization formally representing pro-North Korean members of Japan’s ethnic Korean minority, to auction off its ten-story office building in downtown Tokyo, effectively ending its mission of bringing money into North Korea and pushing propaganda out. The group’s problems are essentially financial: Chongryon owes the Japanese government nearly $750 million for a late-90s emergency bailout that rescued the group’s network of credit unions, which were rapidly de-capitalized because of remittances to North Korea during the country’s devastating mid-90s famine, an economic and humanitarian catastrophe that killed up to 2 million people.

As with just about anything regarding North Korea, even the surface-level truth belies deeper and darker realities. If it weren’t for the chronic economic crisis and resulting famine that gripped North Korea in the 1990s, as well as a rising anti-North Korean strain in Japanese politics, then the criminal enterprises, communal bonds, and official connections that made Chongryon such a formidable political and cultural organization may well have remained intact. It took economic collapse, regional crisis, and domestic political upheaval to bring Chongryon to its knees.

North Korea has no official embassy in Japan, so the Pyongyang-linked Chongryon acts as an unofficial representative of a government that has kidnapped Japanese citizens and fired long-range missiles in the island nation’s direction. It runs banks, a newspaper, dozens of schools, and a university named after Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s “eternal leader” and the current despot’s grandfather. In the 1980s, Chongryon’s business and criminal enterprises, which included off-book pachinko parlors, pubs, prostitution rings, and real estate, reportedly produced over a billion dollars a year in revenue — much of which, according to Michael J. Green of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, was sent back to Pyongyang. As late as 1990, its banking system was capitalized to the tune of $25 billion.

Because North Korea has few exports and is under severe international sanctions, unofficial currency-gathering enterprises like this one can be crucial. And the group also serves as a propaganda outlet, pushing out the DPRK party line to ethnic Koreans. It would be unimaginable for North Korea to own a K-Street high-rise, and South Korea officially bans any expression of support for its northern neighbor. But Japan has allowed its enemy’s outpost to remain, and even thrive.

The full story is well worth reading here.

Here are previous posts on the Chongryon including a post from 2010 when the Japanese Supreme Court ruled that the headquarters could be seized.

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DPRK in 2012 fundraising spree

Monday, October 31st, 2011

According to the Daily NK:

North Korea is pushing every angle to try and obtain more foreign currency to bolster its coughers and fund its 2012 festivities.

According to North Korean sources, apart from the standard blanket expropriation of a large proportion of the $200-1500 per month incomes of laborers based abroad, in recent times the authorities have also started to move in on the reserves of ordinary citizens inside North Korea’s borders.

Various enterprises and organizations are said to be in fierce competition to get hold of whatever foreign currency and gold is held by the people. Trade banks have also apparently responded to the situation by offering to exchange foreign currency at the black market rate of 2,800 won per U.S. dollar, instead of the laughable official exchange rate.

Elsewhere, mobile phone sales are helping the regime to dredge currency from the people. The North Korean Ministry of Communications is reportedly making impressive profits by monopolizing the importation of phones made by Chinese companies ZTE and Huawei, buying them for $80 per handset and reselling them for $300. Based on known prices, connection fees and a service take-up of 700,000 people so far, the authorities have presumably managed to earn $250m through this practice alone.

Overseas Koreans also say they are being pushed to add to the funding drive. Ethnic Koreans in the United States have claimed that North Korea has offered them the chance to reunite with long lost family members in the North for a cost of several thousand dollars per person, including brokerage and security fees, although this has been apparently going on for a number of years.

Over in Japan, meanwhile, it was also revealed by weekly publication AERA that North Korea has sent letters to elderly members of the Chongryon inviting them to return to North Korea with the promise of being able to live well on their pensions. It is suspected that the North hopes to be able to withhold news of their eventual passing so as to keep receiving the pensions in the medium term.

Finally, the workers and businesses at the Kaeseong Industrial Complex have also become a target of the fund raising drive. North Korean management in the Complex requested back in August that South Korean businesses stop offering ‘Choco-pies’ (a South Korean snack) to North Korean workers and give them cash instead.

However, the overall results are unlikely to be positive. The planned illusion of plenty may be briefly achieved next year, but the majority of experts agree that the North Korean regime is now distorting the economy more and more by focusing on events idolizing the Kim family at the expense of other issues that will inevitably come back to haunt the regime later.

Yonhap also reported on this story.

Read the full Daily NK piece here:
2012 Funding International Overdrive
Daily NK
2011-10-31

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Japan arrests North Korean on charges of illegal export

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Pictured above: An American-made, petrol-guzzling Hummer H2 (MSRP 2008-$53,286; 10 mpg-US;24 L/100 km; 12 mpg-imp) in the parking lot of (I believe) the Yanggakdo Hotel in Pyongyang in September 2010.  The photo comes from here.

UPDATE 2 (2011-10-5): Accoridng to the Mainichi Daily News:

A man standing trial for illegally exporting luxury foreign cars to North Korea was a spy attempting to acquire foreign currency under the guise of a businessman, police allege.

An Sonki, 71, a North Korean resident of Japan, is being tried at the Tokyo District Court on charges of violating the Foreign Exchange Law for exporting three foreign luxury cars to North Korea in 2008.

An traveled to North Korea and China on 40 occasions over the past five years. He is believed to have worked as a broker between North Korea’s state-run companies and foreign firms, while ostensibly working for an electricity-affiliated company in Tokyo almost every day. He managed his own trading company, whose nominal president was a South Korean resident of Japan whom he was acquainted with.

The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)’s Public Security Bureau had kept track of An since the 1990s because An invited North Korean trade missions to Japan and visited the North Korean passenger-cargo ship Mangyongbong while it was docked at a port in Japan.

The MPD launched a criminal investigation into the illegal export case in June and found that An belonged to a spy agency under the Korean Workers’ Party. An reportedly received instructions from the secretive agency by calling it about once a week from a public telephone.

The MPD also confiscated dozens of contracts and planning documents from locations linked to An. The documents pertained to joint crab and shrimp fishing with Russian companies; the processing and selling of kimchi with Vietnamese companies; scrapping and repairing of ships with Japanese and Chinese companies; cable copper trading with Zambian companies; and importing matsutake mushrooms and snow crabs to Japan.

An’s activities were apparently aimed at brokering joint ventures between North Korean state-run companies and foreign companies, as well as bringing supplies to North Korea. Investigators suspect that An was helping with North Korea’s acquisition of foreign currency and the improvement of power supply in the North.

An was reportedly living a frugal life, renting a six-tatami mat apartment room without a bathroom for 40,000 yen a month. The apartment was not equipped with an air conditioner or television. There was hardly any living ware in the apartment, except for a rice cooker and a compact refrigerator. His lunch box he brought to his company contained only rice and pickled vegetables. He always wore a suit, which was left by a deceased acquaintance. He rarely contacted his separated wife and child.

“I never thought of my own interests but acted in accordance with the agency’s instructions,” An was quoted as telling investigators.

An has not revealed much about the flow of his money. Investigators confiscated 1 million yen in cash and wads of receipts from traveling abroad, but the origin of those funds is unknown.

“His activities are shrouded in mystery. We suspect that the importance of secret agents like him has been increasing in North Korea, which is under economic sanctions,” said a senior MPD official.

During the first hearing of the trial on Sept. 9, An demanded that all charges in the indictments be withheld. How much of his secret activities will be revealed depends on the questioning of the defendant during the ongoing trial.

UPDATE 1 (2011-7-7): According to the Mainichi Daily News:

A North Korean man under arrest for illegally exporting luxury foreign cars to Pyongyang by way of South Korea allegedly disguised the cars as destined for foreign embassies, it has been learned.

An Sonki, 71, a North Korean resident of Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward, was earlier arrested by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) on charges of violating the Foreign Exchange Law for exporting luxury foreign cars to North Korea from Kobe in 2008 under the instruction of the Workers’ Party of Korea’s undercover agency.

According to the latest revelations, the North’s undercover agency instructed An to make the Indian Embassy in Pyongyang one of the final destinations of the exported cars apparently to prevent South Korean authorities from uncovering irregularities when the cars went through the South. The MPD is trying to work out all the facts of the case.

An is suspected to have exported three fancy foreign cars to Pyongyang on two separate occasions in 2008, ferrying the cars from Kobe Port. The export was undertaken by a Tokyo-based trading company called “Godo Holdings,” which is effectively managed by An. The MPD suspects that An is a North Korean agent.

According to the MPD’s Public Security Bureau, An had declared to Japanese customs that the consignee of the luxury cars was a delivery company in Seoul. However, the vehicles were ultimately shipped to North Korea by way of the South, where the items were re-registered as transit cargo. It is believed that the cars were declared as destined for the embassies when they cleared South Korean customs.

Investigators have confiscated from An’s home documents that described a plan to make the Indian Embassy and a Middle Eastern embassy in Pyongyang the final destinations of the cars.

“I was told to make the embassies the nominal destinations of the cars,” An was quoted as telling investigators.

Investigators have also confiscated a North Korean passport, a seal with the name of the undercover agency engraved, as well as a document describing a plan to establish routes to distribute the North’s agricultural and marine products to Japan, the United States and Europe. It has also emerged that An had traveled to South Africa in order to procure rare metals, according to investigators.

An reportedly belonged to a section of the North’s undercover agency that was in charge of Japan.

More on the interesting business dealings of the North Korean embassy in India below.

ORIGINAL POST (2011-6-21): According to KBS:

Japanese police have arrested a North Korean citizen on charges of selling luxury foreign cars to the North through South Korea.

Japanese media said that the North Korean man, who resides in Tokyo and was identified only by his surname “Ahn,” is charged with violating Japan’s foreign currency law.

Ahn is accused of illegally exporting three used Mercedes-Benz cars to North Korea without the Japanese government’s permission. The cars were shipped to the communist country from Japan’s Kobe port via South Korea’s Busan and Incheon between September and December 2008.

This is the first uncovered illegal export scheme to use South Korea as a stopover between Japan and North Korea. China is generally the popular channel for illegal exports between the two nations.

Japanese police also believe that Ahn is a North Korean spy.

Back in May, the DPRK detained two Japanese men for drug smuggling in Rason, and North Korean Embassy officials in India came under investigation for involvement in a luxury car smuggling case worth W100 billion (US$1=W1,091).

Read the full story here:
Japan Arrests N. Korean on Charges of Illegal Export
KBS
2011-6-21

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DPRK donates to Chongryon in wake of Japanese tsunami

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

UPDATE 1 (2011-4-10): According to Yonhap:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il donated more than 165 million yen (US$1.94 million) in educational funds to pro-North Korea residents in Japan on the occasion of his late father’s 99th birthday, the North’s state media said Sunday.

The educational aid was sent to the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, also known as “Chongryon,” to mark the 99th anniversary on April 15 of North Korea founder Kim Il-sung’s birth, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

Here is the Original KCNA story:

General Secretary Kim Jong Il sent education aid fund and stipends amounting to 165,200,000 yen to the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan. It was sent for the democratic national education of children of compatriots in Japan on the occasion of the 99th birth anniversary of President Kim Il Sung.

The aid fund and stipends sent by Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il so far total 46 759 450 390 yen on 157 installments.

ORIGINAL POST (2011-3-24): According to Yonhap:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il donated US$500,000 to pro-North Korean residents in Japan to help them recover from a killer quake and tsunami that left thousands dead and missing.

The aid from the cash-strapped country was announced Thursday in a brief dispatch from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Separately, North Korea’s Red Cross sent relief funds of $100,000 to its Japanese counterpart and expressed deep sympathy to the victims of the catastrophe, the KCNA said in a separate dispatch.

The KCNA did not give any further details on whether there were any casualties among pro-North Korean residents.

An official of the pro-North Korean association in Tokyo told Yonhap News Agency by phone that some of the residents could have been killed during the disaster. He did not elaborate and asked not to be identified as he was not authorized to speak to media.

Currently, hundreds of thousands of Koreans live in Japan, many of them descendants of Koreans forcibly brought to Japan as laborers during Tokyo’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

The ethnic Korean community, however, was later divided into two separate groups, with each supporting South and North Korea, respectively. The two Koreas remain technically at war since their 1950-53 Korean War that ended in a cease-fire.

North Korea and Japan have no diplomatic relations.

Despite Pyongyang’s vitriolic language towards the “Japanese colonialists,” the DPRK and Japan have historically enjoyed a uniquely close relationship.

Up until recent economic sanctions were imposed, Japan was the DPRK’s largest non-socialist trading partner.  This relationship was driven in large part by the Japan-based ethnic Korean association: Chongryon (Chosen Soren).  According to the Daily NK, at its peak, the Chongryon’s patriotic projects enabled the remittance of six to eight hundred million dollars every year.  With dividends like that, $500, 000 does not seem like much of a sacrifice.

Chongryon members are responsible for a number of investments in the country such as the Chosun Bank, Moranbong Company,   and Kim Man-yu Hospital in Pyongyang (39.031294°, 125.784566°).

Also worth noting, Ko Yong-hui,  Kim Jong-un’s mother, was from Osaka, Japan.  In fact here are the coordinates of her birthplace:  34.663147°, 135.531080°

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Japanese earthquake disrupts Chongryun web page

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

UPDATE 3 (2011-4-9): After posting the news from April 1-6, the site appears to be out of service again. Here is the statement posted to the web page:

東日本大震災の影響により電波障害が発生しています。
そのため報道の配信を見合わせる場合があります。

According to Google Translate:

Interference has occurred due to the earthquake East.
You may postpone the delivery of the report for that.

UPDATE 1 (2011-4-6): The web page appears to be fixed today.  So it looks like the site was temporarily down from March 21-April 6.

ORIGINAL POST (2011-4-5): Elufa.net is the premier web destination to watch North Korea’s evening news broadcasts.  It has not been updated for several days (appx. March 21).  Today I noticed a message on the screen:

The message at the bottom reads:

東日本大震災の影響により電波障害が発生しています。
そのため報道の配信を一時見合わせます。復旧次第配信の予定です。

Here is the translation via Google Translate:

Interference has occurred due to the earthquake East. Temporary 見合Wasemasu news delivered for that purpose. Delivery will recover soon.

North Korea’s Uriminzokkiri YouTube account is still being updated with other North Korean television footage, but they are not uploading evening news broadcasts.

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Pyongyang’s overseas business agents

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

According to the Asahi Shimbun:

Although they feel responsible for the future of their country, they generally work alone in a foreign land. Their family members are kept “hostage,” and they must resort to secretive tactics to bypass international sanctions to feed their leaders’ voracious appetite for Japanese products.

Yet being a trade agent is a favored occupation among North Koreans.

The job allows individuals to live a fairly free life outside of North Korea and can lead to the accumulation of wealth. That is, if everything goes well.

“In the past, the symbol of the wealthy were those Korean nationals who returned from Japan,” a trade agent said. “However, with the suspension of travel by the Man Gyong Bong-92 (cargo-passenger ship that sailed between Japan and North Korea), it has now become the time for trade agents.”

North Korean trade agents in China are under the strict control of Pyongyang.

To be chosen as a trade agent, individuals must have the right background, including not having any family link to the old capitalist class or relatives who are considered anti-state.

They must have also worked for a government institution or major state-run company.

Prospective agents are scouted by trading companies and are only approved by the government after a rigorous background check by state security, Foreign Ministry and other authorities.

Many seeking to become trade agents use their personal connections or even bribes, according to sources.

Trade agents allowed to work in China must leave behind at least one family member in North Korea to deter the agents from defecting.

One trade agent from Pyongyang established a base in a condominium in the central part of a Chinese city. At the start of every day, the agent bows to portraits on the walls of Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea, and his son, Kim Jong Il, to pray for successful business.

“We have the burden of the nation on our shoulders. We have to use any means possible to turn a profit,” the agent said.

About 300 North Korean trading companies have been confirmed. They are all affiliated with North Korean government agencies or the military.

Sources said Pyongyang has dispatched nearly 1,000 trade agents to Beijing and 600 or so to Shanghai. Major regional cities are also home to between 100 and 200 North Korean trade agents.

Every night, the trade agents must contact supervisors dispatched by the North Korean government to offices in various cities in China. The agents report on their business activities as well as on their personal movements. Those reports are then transmitted to the headquarters of the trading company that dispatched the agents and to related government agencies.

Every Saturday, the agents must gather at the regional offices for study sessions on the instructions and policies of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

Depending on the experience of each agent and the size of the operation, between $5,000 (412,000 yen) and $60,000 from profits are transferred to North Korea. The trade agent has to use whatever is left over for future business and daily life.

Many agents barely eke out a living, and those who cannot fulfill the government-set quotas are recalled.

The trade agents sell North Korean mining resources, such as coal and iron ore, lumber and seafood. They buy foodstuffs, pharmaceutical drugs, daily necessities and equipment from China.

According to Chinese government statistics, North Korea’s total trade with China in 2009 reached about $2.68 billion, an increase of 5.5 times over 2000. As North Korea becomes more isolated, its trade dependence on China has soared to 73 percent.

The more elite trade agents are dispatched by state-run trading companies to major Chinese cities, such as Beijing, on long-term commercial visas.

Although they are company employees, the North Koreans are unlike the agents working for Japanese trading companies, who may have a large support staff.

The elite North Korean agents often work alone and handle large projects with huge piles of money handed to them by Pyongyang.

After North Korea conducted its first nuclear test, Japan banned exports of luxury items, such as expensive foods, cars and precious metals, from November 2006. After Pyongyang’s second nuclear test in 2009, Japan banned all exports to North Korea.

Despite the sanctions, high-quality Japanese products remain very popular in North Korea. That means the elite trade agents must find ways around the strict sanctions to buy Japanese products and secretly transport them to North Korea.

Generally, the agents make it look like the Japanese products have been purchased by a Chinese entity.

According to sources, the agents often have Japanese products transported to a bonded district in a Chinese port where duties do not have to be paid. Those products are then loaded onto another ship bound for North Korea.

Another method is to have Japanese products pass Chinese customs and traded among a number of Chinese companies before being purchased for shipment to North Korea.

“Japanese companies have become much more cautious because of the total export ban, so it has become harder to obtain Japanese products. Still, there are ways to purchase such products,” said a Chinese worker who trades with North Korea.

Sources said North Korean demand is particularly strong for Japanese-made pharmaceutical drugs, medical equipment, cars and cosmetics.

“Although Chinese products are cheap and readily available, their reputation is not good because the quality is bad,” a Chinese source said. “There is strong demand among the affluent for Japanese-made drugs and foods.”

The North Korean leadership understands the importance of the traders and their roles.

Sources said that when Kim Jong Il visited China last year, he heard about complaints from Chinese companies that they were not receiving payments from North Korean trade agents.

After returning to North Korea, Kim Jong Il is said to have ordered trade officials to settle the unpaid accounts to restore trust in North Korea.

The sources said sudden payments of such unsettled accounts became more frequent from late last year.

Read the full story here:
Trade agents do the dirty work for Pyongyang
Asahi Shimbun
Daisuke Nishimura
2/10/2011

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Pyongyang Information Center (PIC)

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Pictured Above (Google Earth): Pyongyang Information Center and Annex

* AKA Pyongyang Informatics Center

Choi Sung, Professor of computer science at Namseoul University, writes in the IT Times:

I have been writing about North Korea’s IT industry since the start of this year. In this installment, I would like to introduce North Korea’s major information and communications institution. If the Choson Computer Centre (KCC) is called the centerpiece of North Korea’s IT R&D, Pyongyang Information Centre (PIC) is the mecca of their software development. The PIC, founded on July 15, 1986, was jointly funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Jochongnyeon (the pro-Pyongyang federation of Korean residents in Japan). It is situated in Kyong-Heung dong near the Botong River in Pyongyang.

The PIC was created as the Pyongyang Program Development Company and changed its name to Pyongyang Electronic Calculator Operator in October of 1988 and then again to Pyongyang Information Centre (PIC) in July of 1991. As of now, the best and the brightest of North Korea’s IT talent is developing various kinds of programs and devices at the PIC: nearly 300 IT professionals, who graduated from the North’s most prestigious universities such as Kim Il-sung University, Kim Chaek University of Technology and Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), are on the payroll of the PIC.

On the overseas front, the PIC has its branches in China, Japan and Singapore, where PIC IT experts are working on software development, and has teamed up with foreign companies to jointly develop software programs and expedite technology transfers. The PIC, North Korea’s major software developer, has been at the vanguard of these following areas: language information processing, machinery translation, document editing, global IMEs (Input Message Editor), computer-aided design (CAD), networks, database systems, fonts, multimedia, dynamic images, etc. For instance, the PIC’s database development taskforce consists of about 40 IT experts, who are all working on the development of information management systems for production lines, companies and other institutions. The PIC’s publishing group has been engaged in various R&D projects from the development of Chang-Deok, a PC word processor, to DTP (desk top publishing) systems for Mac computers. Last but not least, the PIC’s application software group is keen on CAD, virtual reality and the development of project management devices. The PIC has been developing a plethora of software products: embedded software, CAD, image processing, Korean-language information processing and systems, network management systems, multimedia dynamic images, etc. The PIC’s 3D CAD has been widely employed by North Korean and foreign architectural design companies and more sophisticated versions of it are coming out. What’s more, the PIC is ramping up its joint R&D efforts with overseas IT developers with a focus on the development of diverse image processing programs. Korean-language information processing and systems are about developing the technologies for character recognition, voice recognition, natural language processing and primary retrieval while the development of network management systems includes fire walls, security solutions, encryption, e-commerce, IC cards, instant messenger programs, mobile game programs, etc. They are also working on the development of multimedia and dynamic images: technologies for producing 3D materials, 2D cartoon production and the technology for adding accompaniments to images are being developed. The PIC’s font development team has developed 300 Korean fonts and a myriad of calligraphic styles for imported mobile phones and dot fonts for PDAs.

The PIC has thus far scaled up its IT exchanges with overseas information and technology companies as well as R&D institutions. A case in point is the North-South joint venture, HANA Program Center, which is located in Dandong-si in Liaoning, China and was jointly invested in May of 2001 by the PIC and North-South HANA Biz, a subsidiary of South Korea’s Dasan Network. Another showpiece of the PIC’s effort for joint R&D is the software development for fonts and Chinese character recognition in collaboration with Soltworks (an e-publishing software developer). On top of that, the PIC’s IT exchanges with overseas institutions have been on the rise.

As such, inter-Korean cooperation projects will serve as the driving force behind the PIC’s IT exchanges with South Korea. To that end, non-military sanctions imposed on Pyongyang should be eased, such as the Wassenaar Arrangement (a multilateral export control regime (MECR) with 40 participating states) should be eased to move US – North Korea relations forward and the US’s EAR (Export Administration Regulation) on the North should be scaled back. Above all, IT-initiated unification of the two Koreas should be preceded by pragmatic dialogues with the North and North Korea’s efforts for reaching out to other nations. As of now, the North needs to draw up a future blueprint to embark on phased cooperation with the S. Korean government and companies in a bid to open its doors to the international community.

UPDATE from a reader who has spent some time there:

[T]hey are an interesting institution that not everyone has a chance to see from the inside. What was interesting is that they really work on software for foreign markets (i.e. mobile software for well known international cell network providers). In addition to that they have an impressive library of books on all topics of software development which was up-to-date at the time I visited.

In contrast to the other institutions they immediately showed commercial accomplishments instead of where the leaders have walked. Employees have access to a gym too. A place out of place in Pyongyang. What I found interesting in the article is that the mentioned developments match some of those the KCC presents in their building. The PIC made much more an impression of a service unit for foreign customers than for the country itself. However, they are training hardware specialists for the infrastructure there.

Read the full story here:
North Korea’s IT Application Software Development Center – Pyongyang Information Centre (PIC)
IT Times
Choi Sung
12/6/2010

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KCNA re-launched on DPRK-owned IP address

Monday, December 6th, 2010

UPDATE 4 (12/6/2010): Martyn Williams informs us that the new KCNA web page has undergone a second round of changes:

Also new is the addition of Korean-language articles to the previously-available English and Spanish news.

The front page includes an image, the day’s headlines and links to seven category menus. I had problems with some of the links and the menus when accessed via Firefox, but they function with Internet Explorer.

It still has to be accessed via an ugly all-numeric address but new is a copyright line that states:

Copyright © 2000-2010 by www.star.edu.kp all rights reserved.

This is the first time I’ve seen the name “www.star.edu.kp.” The Star could refer to “Star JV,” the DPRK-Thai joint venture that runs the North Korean IP address space. That company is planning to use “www.star.net.kp” for it’s own homepage. But the “edu” typically signifies an educational domain.

At present all KP domain names remain offline. The German server that was responsible for serving the dot-kp top-level domain has been offline for several months.

Because this is the second of an unknown number of versions, I will call this “new KCNA v2.”

Below is a screen shot of the original version:

Photo from Martyn Williams

UPDATE 3 (10/21/2010): Martyn Williams reports that the South Korean government is now blocking the new North Korean web pages.

Internet users in South Korea had been able to access the website earlier this week, but as of Thursday attempts to connect are redirected to a National Police Agency page that warns the site’s content is prohibited in South Korea.

The blocking isn’t a surprise. About 30 Web sites with North Korean connections have been blocked for several years by the South Korean government. They include a similar site operated from Tokyo that, like the new site, carries news in English and Spanish from the official Korea Central News Agency (KCNA).

UPDATE 2: More in the comments.

UPDATE 1: You can see the new KCNA here (hat tip to “PR”).

ORIGINAL POST: Martyn Williams writes in Computer World:

North Korea appears to have made its first full connection to the Internet. The connection, planning for which has been going on for at least nine months, came as the reclusive country prepares to mark the 65th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea with a massive celebration and military parade.

A Web site for the country’s official news agency [KCNA] was the first to appear from among a group of 1,024 Internet addresses that had been reserved for North Korea but never used. The Korea Central News Agency’s new Web site is different from one operated by a group in Tokyo and carries news and photos a day ahead of the Japanese site.

Other North Korea-linked Web sites and a recently launched Twitter feed operate from locations outside the country or via direct connections to China’s national Internet.

The site appeared as Pyongyang welcomed foreign journalists to the city to observe Sunday’s parade. A press room for the journalists was set up at the Koryo Hotel and reporters were given full access to the Internet. Typically visitors to Pyongyang are only able to make telephone calls or send e-mails through designated computers.

“The North Korean IT guys at the press room really know their stuff. We’re logged on,” wrote Melissa Chan, a correspondent for Al Jazeera, in a Twitter message.

She later appeared live on the channel via a Skype link.

“We have access to Facebook, Twitter and here I am able to Skype with you,” she said.

The access is extraordinary for a country that keeps such tight control on how its citizens communicate.

While Internet access is believed to be available to small group of elite members of the ruling party, the rest of the country is not permitted access to outside sources of news.

Radios are pre-tuned to state broadcasts, magazines and newspapers from other countries are banned and the only Web access available is to a nationwide intranet that doesn’t link to sites outside of the country. As PCs are unusual at home, most access is via terminals in libraries.

The first signs of a greater interest in the Internet came late last year when a batch of Internet addresses, long reserved for North Korea, were assigned to a North Korean-Thai joint venture.

The numeric IP addresses lie at the heart of communication on the Internet. Every computer connected to the network needs its own address so that data can be sent and received by the correct servers and computers. Without them, communication would be impossible.

Frequent monitoring of the addresses by IDG News Service repeatedly failed to turn up any use of them until now.

An analysis of the connection to the news agency Web site shows it is connected to the wider Internet via China Netcom.

It’s impossible to tell if the access given to journalists in Pyongyang marks a turning point in the way the country regulates access to communications, or if it’s simply a courtesy made available to create a good impression among journalists.

The founding anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea is a big deal for the country every year, but this year is especially important. Kim Jong Eun, son of leader Kim Jong Il, has just taken his first position within the party, which rules North Korea. His appointment to the party’s Central Committee and the Central Military Commission are first steps towards a likely future position as leader of the country.

I have had a hard time locating the new web page (Google has not scraped it), but I will post it here soon.

The KCNA site run by the Chongryon in Japan is here.  The new version also seems to offer both English and Spanish versions.

Read more here:
North Korea opens up Internet for national anniversary
Computer World
Martyn Williams
10/9/2010

…and Martyn’s personal web page: http://www.northkoreatech.org/

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