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Chongryon chief’s son pleads not guilty to importing ‘matsutake’ from North Korea

Kyodo

One of two men linked to the pro-Pyongyang group Chongryon have pleaded not guilty to illegally importing mushrooms from North Korea.

Ho Jong Do, a son of Ho Jong Man, who heads the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon), said the charges were totally wrong as their trial opened Thursday in the Kyoto District Court.

The other defendant, Kim Yong Jok, president of a Tokyo-based company affiliated with Chongryon, pleaded guilty.

The men imported about 3,000 kg of matsutake mushrooms produced in North Korea, worth around ¥7.6 million, via China in September 2010, prosecutors said.

Japan has banned imports from North Korea as part of sanctions against the country over its nuclear arms and missile development programs.

Japanese investigators have alleged North Korea aimed to obtain foreign currency by exporting the highly sought-after mushrooms.

Chongryon effectively functions as North Korea’s embassy in the absence of official diplomatic relations between Tokyo and Pyongyang.