Kim Chin Yong was once a wealthy businessman with a chain of yakitori restaurants in Kawasaki. These days, however, he barely gets by on 120,000 yen he receives each month from the government in public livelihood assistance. For decades, Kim gave generously to the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon), which serves as North Korea's de facto embassy in Japan and acts as a catalyst in funneling funds to prop up the tottering regime across the Sea of Japan......
The 82-year-old routinely handed over tens of millions of yen each year. Eventually, he lost everything to the cause.
"I wanted to do my bit to help North Korea develop a diplomatic relationship with Japan on an equal footing," he says. "I felt that if we could achieve that, it would strengthen the position of Korean residents in Japanese society.,,,,,,,
"But in its desperation, the Pyongyang regime now seems to believe that its only diplomatic option is to pose as a military threat to the rest of the world. Contrary to all my expectations, Pyongyang is making things much more difficult for Koreans living in Japan."
most Korean residents here are skeptical of the group's motives. As such, they regard Chongryon as little more than a money collecting machine that exploited a yearning among older Koreans for more contact with their isolated homeland, now generally regarded as an international pariah and rogue state.......
Another Korean, 71-year-old Tokyo resident Shim Gwang Seop, recalled that when his grandmother, So Kum An, died in 1977 at the age of 82, hundreds of Korean residents in Japan mourned her passing
Shim, her grandson, was working for Chongryon's Chamber of Commerce Federation at the time.....Asahi: January 4,2007BY HIROSHI MATSUBARA
He became so disgusted at Chongryon's avarice that he decided to quit. The last straw, he said, was when Chongryon tried to solicit donations at his grandmother's funeral.
For Shim, 1972 marked a turning point in Chongryon's activities in Japan. North Korea was celebrating the 60th birthday of the Great Leader, Kim Il Sung.
He said Chongryon's affiliate organizations went on a donation spree, confiscating even cars and other assets from Koreans who were unable to pay.
"The birthday project was such a success that Pyongyang began to make demands for more monetary gifts by using one auspicious occasion after the other.
"In the end, the reputation of individual Chongryon officials came to be judged by the amount of the money they collected," Shim said. "In that way, Chongryon gradually became the instrument in Japan for Pyongyang to get its hands on hard foreign currency."
Kim Chan Jung, a former reporter with a magazine published by Chongryon, estimates that Chongryon collected more than 5 billion yen from Korean residents in Japan for Kim Il Sung's 60th birthday bash. He said gifts ranged from industrial machines and construction vehicles to computers and bundles of cash.
By the early 1970s, Chongryon effectively was Pyongyang's puppet, Kim said. This was accomplished through intra-organization manipulation by a pro-Pyongyang faction within Chongryon. Pyongyang created what is known as the ideological study group shortly after Chongryon's founding in 1955.
As testimony to this, Kim said senior Chongryon officials were left in no doubt that they had to toe the line when they were forced to educate their children in North Korea under a repatriation program set up in 1959.
In effect, the children were hostages, he said.
Against this backdrop, Pyongyang's demands for even more cash reached a new level in the mid-1980s, when it ordered Chongryon to set up businesses so profits could be remitted to Pyongyang, according to former Chongryon officials.
Pyongyang also tapped the operators of Korean businesses in Japan to invest in joint ventures in North Korea.
Chongryon, ever-eager to meet the requests of its master in Pyongyang, seized on Japan's asset-inflated bubble economy in the late 1980s to set up pachinko parlors and real-estate businesses, journalist Kim said.
Chongryon's affiliated credit unions eventually suffered huge losses when the economic bubble burst in 1991 and they went belly up in quick succession.
As for the joint ventures in North Korea, they usually failed miserably, according to a former official of a Chongryon-related trading company.
"Pyongyang basically sucked Chongryon dry, to the point it now finds it difficult to even pay salaries to its officials and for teachers at related ethnic schools," said another former Chongryon official in his 30s.
"Pyongyang's acknowledgment that it abducted Japanese nationals gravely damaged Chongryon's credibility in Japan," he said. "A more fundamental problem is that it has lost the trust of the Korean community here."
Public security authorities estimate that the number of Chongryon supporters and their family members now totals no more than 90,000, a far cry from around 250,000 in the early 1990s.
Furthermore, public security sources say that 28 parcels of land owned by about 70 Korean-run schools around Japan had been put up as collateral to obtain loans by the end of 2004. This generated funds in excess of 63 billion yen that went to Chongryon-related companies or individuals, he said.
A substantial portion of the money was swallowed up to support Chongryon's business activities here or was sent to North Korea as donations.
Several schools have closed since then, he added.
The land formerly occupied by Choson Sinbo, Chongryon's official newspaper, in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward is now a construction site. Work has been under way since 2005 to put up a multistory apartment building there.
The 1,192-square-meter land area was put up as collateral for a 4.4-billion-yen loan. A large portion of that amount was spent on Chongryon-related pachinko businesses, public security sources said.
Unable to repay the loan, the newspaper sold the land for 1.7 billion yen to a real-estate developer in August 2005, ending nearly a half-century of printing and publishing on the site.