2014N0301

My latest in NK News: Japanese and North Korean officials to hold rare talks on Monday

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Japanese and North Korean officials to hold rare talks on Monday


Officials from the Red Cross to meet and discuss the returning the remains of Japanese personnel

February 28th, 2014

Kosuke Takahashi

Red Cross officials from Japan and North Korea will meet on Monday to discuss returning the remains of Japanese military and civilian personnel who died on the Korean Peninsula in the closing stages of the Second World War. The move has raised speculation that Pyongyang is attempting to pursue a policy of omnidirectional diplomacy towards its neighbors.

Japanfs Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that the meeting – the first such for 18 months – will take place on March 3 in the Chinese city of Shenyang.

The Japanese Red Cross said the two nationsf Red Cross officials will hold negotiations concerning both the bones of wartime Japanese who died in the northern part of the peninsula. Visits to the graves of Japanese servicemen and civilians buried in the DPRK will also be on the agenda.

Both the foreign ministry and the Japanese Red Cross said Pyongyang requested the talks. They announced that senior officials from both foreign ministries are also expected to attend the meeting.

Japanfs Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Friday that the meeting will be held from a humanitarian perspective but indicated that he hopes it will lead to discussions on pending bilateral issues, including that of Japanese nationals abducted by the North.

Japanese experts also say the meeting could pave the way for government-to-government talks.

gPyongyang will use the Japanese and North Korean Red Cross meeting as a breakthrough for North Koreafs relations with Japan, as it has done so in the past,h Hideshi Takesada, an expert on regional security at Takushoku University in Tokyo, said in an interview with NK News on Friday.

gWhen Antonio Inoki visited Pyongyang in January, Pyongyang unofficially asked Inoki to extend the invitation to Keiji Furuya, Japanfs Minister in Charge of the Abduction Issue. Considering recent events such as family reunions separated by the Korean War, North Korea is currently pursuing an omni-directional foreign policy toward other nations,h Takesada continued.

It is estimated that approximately 35,000 Japanese died during the latter stages of the Second World War in what is now North Korea.

Picture: Eric Lafforgue
posted by Kosuke at 02:52| Comment(0) | NK News

My interview with Mr. Suganuma, a former intelligence officer: Chongryon still Pyongyangfs pawn in covert operations

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Chongryon still Pyongyangfs pawn in covert operations: former intelligence officer

Despite dwindling numbers, pro-North organization can still be useful should hostilities arise

February 28th, 2014

Kosuke Takahashi

Though the organization has seen better days, Chongryon can still serve as a base for North Koreafs covert operations against the South, a former Japanese intelligence officer told NK News.

Established in 1955, the pro-North Chongryon organization in Japan has served as a strong support for such activities from the motherland. It has been the main association of North Korean residents, who for years have shown stout solidarity with the Hermit Kingdom.

Chongryon, or the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, had 500,000-600,000 constituents at its peak in the 1960s. Currently, though, it is believed to have only 40,000-50,000 members. The number of Chongryon-affiliated schools has also declined from 110 to about 70 in the past decade. Even the Tokyo headquarters of Chongryon has been put out to tender in recent years.

Why is Chongryon weakening? Primarily it has to do with the dwindling number of North Korean residents in Japan. Until the late 1960s the number of Korean residents in Japan claiming North Korean citizenship was about the same as those avowing loyalty to the South. But recently many Koreans have changed their nationality from North to South, and more than a few Koreans have become naturalized Japanese citizens.

Moreover, the eruption of the abduction issues – Pyongyang agents abducting Japanese from 1977-1983 – has accelerated Japanfs trend toward anti-North Korea sentiment. More ethnic Koreans have become resistant to sending their children to Japanfs pro-North schools.

But in an interview with NK News Mitsuhiro Suganuma, a renowned former officer of Japanfs national intelligence agency, stressed that North Korea will continue to make Chongryon serve as Pyongyangfs pawn in covert operations against South Korea, especially in case of emergencies in areas surrounding the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

gIf an organization still has a sound skeletal structure, it can still work,h said Suganuma, former section head of the second intelligence department of the Japanese Public Security Intelligence Agency (PSIA), which investigates terrorist organizations, international crime syndicates and the major yakuza gangs.

gIt would do just fine if they can perform well only when actions are needed,h he said.

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NK News: First of all, can you just explain to readers a little bit about Chongryon itself?

Suganuma: Chongryon originally would gather a variety of people with different ideas and backgrounds, such as communists and socialists. It was a united front organization of Koreans in Japan, based on Marxism-Leninism. Their official mission statement explicitly mentioned it.

eNow their members are those who faithfully implement the policies of the Kim Jong Un administration and advocate his ideas and theories alone. So nowadays the organization has only a few membersf

But now, just like the Workersf Party of Korea in Pyongyang, it has become an organization that is run through a so-called monolithic control system. Those who challenged the North Korean government and who had criticized Chongryonfs role and management all left the organization.

It has been under the direct control of the Korean Workersf Party. Now their members are those who faithfully implement the policies of the Kim Jong Un administration and advocate his ideas and theories alone. So nowadays the organization has only a few members.

NK News: How many are there now exactly? Some Japanese media say about 40,000.

Suganuma: I donft know exactly. But it used to have as many as 600,000 constituents in the 1960s. It used to have more members than the pro-South Korean organization Mindan had. But many left Chongryon after that as North Korea began to go in the wrong direction.

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NK News: Chairman Ho Jon Man has been a powerful top leader at Chongryon for a long time, but he has actually brought many failures and much damage to the organization. The most notable is the bad-loan debacles of the Chogin Credit Association, a credit union affiliated with Chongryon. How can he stay in power?

Suganuma: There is no other man but Ho Jon Man who can control Chongryon. If another person became leader nobody would follow them.

Another reason is that Ho Jon Man obtained the endorsement of Kim Jong Un. As far as Chongryonfs chairmanship is concerned, Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un have always given the stamp of approval.

Remember: Chongryon is virtually under the direct control of the Liaison Department of the Workersf Party of Korea, which has been in charge of North Koreafs covert operations and underground activities against South Korea. Chongryon in Japan has been a strong support organization aimed at bringing a revolution in South Korea, or a red unification by force.

NK News: Is that mission still going on now?

Suganuma: No, that mission is not going on now. But there is a possibility that it can happen again in the future, depending on North Koreafs and South Koreafs situations.

NK News: But Chongryon is weakening, with its membership decreasing and financial resources dwindling. Can they restart in the future?

Suganuma: Revolution can be brought about by just a handful of people. But they do not have to take any straightforward approach using military means. For example, they can now enhance efforts to increase the number of foreign (pro-North) persons who would like to negotiate with Pyongyang in both South Korea and Japan.

NK News: In a sense, the Chongryon headquarters serve as North Koreafs de facto embassy in Japan.


Suganuma: Yes. For example, people like Isao Iijima, a special adviser to (Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo) Abefs cabinet, and Antonio Inoki all go to North Korea through Chongryon. In order to have formal dialogue, one needs to go through Chongryon in Japan.

NK News: How about the foreign ministry route? Most recently, senior Japanese diplomats are said to have traveled to Hanoi in Vietnam in late January for a possible meeting with North Korean officials.

Suganuma: Thatfs not true. Thatfs a lie. Iijima also denied that meeting in Hanoi.

eIn extreme cases, (Chongryon) would still support a revolution in South Korea, whether directly or indirectly, by sending a select group of agents to Seoul to start guerrilla warfare theref

NK News: So you donft see any possibility of Chongryonfs collapse?

Suganuma: With the number of members decreasing and the headquarters building being put on sale, there is speculation Chongryon will collapse.

But Chongryon plans to hold a statewide convention in May and itfs highly likely to maintain the current leadership of Ho Jon Man. What does this mean? It means Chongryon will not change from its previous role. In extreme cases, it would still support a revolution in South Korea, whether directly or indirectly, by sending a select group of agents to Seoul to start guerrilla warfare there.

NK News: As a journalist I do not feel threatened even if I write a lot of critical stories about Chongryon. I doubt Chongryon has such power.

Suganuma: Thatfs not true. If an organization still has a sound skeletal structure, it can still work. It would do just fine if they can perform well only when actions are needed.

NK News: In September 2002, when then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Pyongyang, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il admitted for the first time that North Korean agents had kidnapped 13 Japanese nationals. Did that shock the Chongryon people?

Suganuma: That shocked ordinary North Korean residents in Japan, but not the Chongryon people. This is because Chongryon itself helped North Korean agentsf abduct Japanese people. They themselves got involved.

For example, imagine when North Korean high-speed spy ships arrived on the coast of the Sea of Japan for covert operations in the 1970s and f80s. Those ships could not arrive on the specific spot of the coast safely at midnight without good navigational signals from the land. Chongryon members on land provided this kind of support.

I used to work in Osaka as a public security officer. There are numerous Chongryon people in Tsuruhashi area of Ikuno in Osaka City. Those Chongryon people went to the coast of the Sea of Japan to measure the water depth for North Korean spy ships.

eThe problem is no strict law in Japan to crack down on them, such as an anti-espionage lawf

NK News: Did the police crack down on them?

Suganuma: In September 1977, Yutaka Kume, then a security guard for the Mitaka City government, was kidnapped from the coast of the Sea of Japan in Ishikara Prefecture. At that time, the Japanese police for the first time actually arrested a North Korean resident in Japan on suspicion of violating the Alien Registration Law. But the protectors shelved an indictment against him. The problem is no strict law in Japan to crack down on them, such as an anti-espionage law.

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Chongyron Headquarters in Tokyo | Picture: Wikipedia


NK News: As a result, abduction cases by North Korea continued. Yokota Megumi was kidnapped in November 1977, just two months later after that arrest.


Yes. Chongryon continued to offer logistical assistance for North Korean agents such as Shin Gwang Soo, an operative in Yokota Megumifs abduction.

North Korea will continue to make Chongryon serve as Pyongyangfs pawn in covert operations against South Korea. To meet that call, Chongryon will prepare itself by maintaining its main structure.

NK News: Let me move on to the subject of the sale of Chongryonfs headquarters. Last month a Japanese court blocked a Mongolia-based companyfs bid to buy Chongryonfs Tokyo headquarters. How do you see this?

Suganuma: This issue is becoming a good bargaining chip for North Korea. Prime Minister Abe has promised to solve the abduction problem during his term. To do that, he needs to start negotiations with Pyongyang. But North Korea has said that if Japan decides to sell it at auction to an unfamiliar third party, it would be regarded as hostile behavior and that Pyongyang would not talk to Tokyo about the abduction issue.

NK News: So that means the Japanese government will let Chongryon continue to use the headquarters building and the land.

Suganuma: Yes. Without doing so, Japan cannot move the abduction issue forward.

Picture of Suganuma: Kosuke Takahashi

Picture of Chongryon headquarters: Wikimedia Commons

posted by Kosuke at 02:31| Comment(0) | NK News