Chongryun demands Tokyo reinstate its tax-exempt status

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Representatives of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryun) demanded in court Thursday that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government reinstate the tax-exempt status of its properties and return the taxes the pro-Pyongyang organization had to pay.

Last year, “Tokyo suddenly imposed taxes on Chongryun properties, which had been exempt for the last 40 years,” Shigeru Tokoi, chief attorney of Chongryun, told the opening session of its lawsuit at the Tokyo District Court.

“This is not because the character of Chongryun has changed, not because the nature of the metropolitan government has changed, and not because its bylaw has changed. It’s only because the governor has changed,” Tokoi said, criticizing the decision by Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara.

Chongryun had enjoyed tax-free status on its Tokyo properties since they were built in the mid-1960s because the facilities were regarded as de facto diplomatic outposts of North Korea, which does not have formal relations with Japan.

The Vienna Convention stipulates that official facilities of a state’s delegation in a foreign country are exempt from taxation by host governments.

But Ishihara last year declared that Chongryun facilities served no such diplomatic function, and imposed approximately 63 million yen in fixed-asset and urban-planning taxes on the group’s three facilities in Tokyo, including its central headquarters in Chiyoda Ward.

Chongryun filed a lawsuit against the metro government in May, denouncing the taxation as “discriminatory treatment that has no legitimate reason.”

Part of the tax was paid by Chongryun after local authorities threatened to seize the properties and auction them.