Chongryon’s Tokyo HQ has business potential: Mongolian buyer

Kyodo

The mysterious Mongolian company that recently made a winning auction bid for the Tokyo headquarters of a pro-North Korean association did so purely for business reasons, its president claimed Thursday.

Chuvaamed Erdenebat, who heads Avar LLC, told reporters in Ulan Bator that its participation earlier this month in the bidding has “no links with any governments in Mongolia, Japan, North Korea and South Korea.”

The Mongolian firm, little known at home and abroad, won an auction for the headquarters site and building of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon) with a bid of ¥5.01 billion.

Chongryon serves as North Korea’s de facto mission in Japan in the absence of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Depending on the situation, the association needs to leave the building and there is a possibility that it cannot avoid scaling down its operations.

The Tokyo District Court on Tuesday postponed a decision on whether to approve the sale, as it is apparently examining if Avar has hidden financial ties with Chongryon. Earlier reports said the Ulan Bator address the firm provided did not exist and suggested there were other murky factors in play.

Erdenebat said the ¥5.01 billion will be financed by “a foreign investment fund.”

“I will reveal the name of the fund after the Tokyo court makes a decision,” the 47-year-old president said, adding that the Mongolian company took part in the auction through a Japanese law-related firm.

The court decided in July 2012 to auction the headquarters in central Tokyo as demanded by the government-backed Resolution and Collection Corp., which is owed about ¥62.7 billion by Chongryon following the collapse of financial institutions in Japan for pro-North Korean residents.

Mongolia and North Korea have had friendly relations for many years.

Next Monday, Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj is scheduled to travel to North Korea to discuss bilateral and regional affairs with the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un.

Elbegdorj will be the first head of state in the world to hold talks with Kim since he took up the post of first secretary of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea in April last year, after the death of his father and longtime ruler, Kim Jong Il.

Japan and Mongolia have good relations. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has been especially counting on Mongolia’s role in making progress on the issue of North Korea’s past abductions of Japanese nationals.

Last month in Tokyo, Abe discussed the abduction issue with his Mongolian counterpart, Norov Altankhuyag.

On Sept. 29, Elbegdorj informally visited Japan and met with Abe for about an hour.

The abductions remains a key stumbling block in establishing Tokyo-Pyongyang diplomatic relations, with North Korea claiming the issue has been resolved and Japan calling for a reinvestigation into the fate of those abducted in the 1970s and 1980s.

Japan officially lists 17 nationals as having been abducted by North Korea, but suspects Pyongyang’s involvement in other disappearances. Five abductees were repatriated in 2002.