| Ho Jong Man, head of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, was going to visit North Korea for the 20th anniversary of the death of late former North Korean founder Kim Il Sung on Tuesday, but gave up as he failed to prepare money, according to Sankei Shimbun Tuesday. Had Ho visited the North, he could have been the first beneficiary of Japan`s lift of sanctions against North Korea.
According to the Japanese media, Ho expressed his wish to visit the North to executives of the pro-Pyongyang group last month. He expected that restriction of its officials coming in and out of North Korea and Japan would be lifted after an agreement was made between North Korea and Japan on May 29. A supreme member of North Korean Supreme People`s Assembly (equivalent to member of National Assembly in Korea), Ho could not go to the North since his inauguration in May 2012 as Japan banned re-entry of executives of the group to North Korea.
Ho had urged organizations under the group and local businessmen to send him money to deliver to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. However, he couldn`t collect enough money and ultimately gave up, according to Sankei. North Korean residents in Japan belonging to the group had paid 100 million yen (983,094 U.S. dollars) in deposit to temporarily stop court`s effectuation of sales of the party`s building that had served as North Korean embassy in Japan on June 30. The coffers have been exhausted.
Despite Japan`s lifting of sanctions on North Korea, the pro-Pyongyang group does not have enough money to send to North Korea. The Japanese authorities estimate that the number of group members had reached 470,000 at one point but recently plunged to around 50,000 as many acquired South Korean nationality or naturalized as South Korean citizen. Another reason of worsening financing situation is that more than half of slot machine operators, the major business of businessmen who are members of the group, suffered bankruptcy due to intensifying competition and tightening tax investigation by the Japanese government.
An official at a Japanese information authority said, "Many North Korean people in Japan are turning away because of a cut in link to North Korea due to deaths of their relatives deported to North Korea or continued remittance demands," adding, "Money remittance to the North had reached an annual 60 billion yen to 90 billion yen in the 1990s but amassing that amount is impossible now." Experts say that despite such a situation, North Korea had clung to lifting sanctions related to the group on hopes that it could be a channel for receiving massive economic cooperation funds when North Korea-Japan talks make rapid progress.