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Friday, Oct. 13, 2006

Chongryun doesn't fret fallout on local Korean community, yet


Staff writer

OSAKA -- Japan's proposed economic sanctions on North Korea are unlikely to greatly affect the daily lives of most Korean residents in Japan.

But unless Japanese political leaders engage North Korea in friendly dialogue, there is a danger that emotions on both sides will be further inflamed, resulting in attacks by angry Japanese on Korean residents in Japan, a spokesman for North Korean residents in Japan warned Thursday.

"My personal opinion is that, except for Korean residents who do business with North Korea in areas like importing seafood and other consumer products, I don't see economic sanctions greatly impacting most Korean residents in Japan who are loyal to the North," said Kim Jong Ui, international affairs bureau chief of the Osaka headquarters of the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryun).

"Ports in Japan that get docking fees and other revenue from visits by North Korean ships could actually suffer the most from the sanctions.

"However, the greater fear is that the heated rhetoric from both Japanese political leaders and Japan's media, especially the anti-North Korean, rightwing media, will escalate to the point where it will be extremely difficult for diplomacy to calm the situation. This could result in further discrimination, including physical harassment, by Japanese of Koreans in Japan," Kim said.

On its Web site Wednesday, Chongryun published Japanese translations of the official North Korean statement on the nuclear test, but it has so far refrained from commenting on the proposed sanctions by Japan.

Pyongyang accused the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush of war-mongering and said the nuclear test was in response to escalating U.S. punitive steps, especially economic sanctions. North Korea insisted the nuclear test was carried out to ensure peace and stability in East Asia. South Korea, China and Japan have condemned the test.

Since Monday's test, there have been no reported attacks by Japanese on Koreans in Japan who are loyal to the North. Following the admission by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in October 2002 that Pyongyang had kidnapped Japanese nationals, North Korean-affiliated schools in Japan have reported scattered verbal and physical attacks on students.

"This time, there were numerous threatening phone calls and e-mails to various prefectural chapters of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan. But so far, no attacks on individuals, as was the case in 2002," Kim said.

Although the proposed economic sanctions would include a ban on ships and the passenger ferry Mangyongbong-92, which calls at Niigata, Korean residents in Japan who want to visit friends and relatives in North Korea have other travel options.

"Korean residents usually fly to Pyongyang via a third country anyway, so it's not like there will be thousands of people stranded on the docks of Osaka, Tokyo or Niigata, unable to visit loved ones," Kim said. "However, because they are no longer able to ship large amounts of food, clothing and other goods by sea, they will be limited to whatever they can put in their luggage and take to the airport. That will make it hard, especially on their relatives" in North Korea.

There are about 598,000 Korean residents of Japan, about 10 percent of whom identify with North Korea. But many, including Kim, have relatives in both North and South Korea, clouding any strict classification.



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The Japan Times

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