In a mysterious twist, the North Korea-affiliated group Chongryon is unlikely to be forced out of its Tokyo headquarters despite losing ownership of the building because it is expected to be given the option of leasing it, sources said.
The sources said real estate company Marunaka Holdings Co., which successfully bid ¥2.21 billion last March to acquire the building and its prime land in Chiyoda Ward, is arranging to resell it to a different real estate firm based in Yamagata Prefecture for around ¥4 billion.
“There has been no change in our stance that we will not lease or sell the property to Chongryon. I cannot say anything more,” a Marunaka official said.
The building serves as North Korea’s de facto embassy in Japan, given the absence of diplomatic relations between Tokyo and Pyongyang. Chongryon, otherwise known as the General Association of Korean Residents, originally owned the property but was forced by the Tokyo District Court to sell it to pay off its debts.
The group is expected to sign a lease with the Yamagata firm soon, the sources said Thursday. Chongryon declined to comment.
The sources said a former Diet member who has personal connections with people linked to Marunaka is expected to mediate the lease contract. But the former politician said, “It is no business of mine.”
The Tokyo District Court decided in 2012 to order the auction of the HQ building at the behest of the government-backed Resolution and Collection Corp., which was trying to collect ¥62.7 billion in loans to Chongryon following the collapse of the group’s financial institutions.
After many twists and turns that saw three separate auctions when earlier winners were disqualified, Marunaka, based in Kagawa Prefecture, bid ¥2.21 billion for the property and paid up in March 2014.
Marunaka said it bought the property for “investment purposes” and wanted Chongryon to vacate the property once ownership was transferred.
The sources said the former Diet member apparently proposed the sale to Marunaka last year and offered to serve as a mediator.
The fate of the property has possible international ramifications. The government in Pyongyang has expressed concerns about the sale, which could complicate the already tenuous ties between Japan and North Korea and Tokyo’s campaign to resolve the thorny abduction issue.