More than 20 people have been added to a list of people banned from re-entering the country after visiting North Korea, taking the total to a record 45, sources close to the matter said Saturday.
The government has forbidden in principle the re-entry of foreign residents of Japan convicted of offenses involving trade or financial transactions with North Korea in response to its fourth nuclear test in January and a rocket launch last month, widely seen as a pretext to test long-range ballistic missile technology.
According to the sources, those conditions apply to more than 20 people, including some Chinese and South Korean nationals.
The 22 people earlier banned from re-entry include high-ranking officials of the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, commonly known as Chongryon.
The association serves as a de facto government mission for North Korea in the absence of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Of that group, five hold the rank of “representative” in North Korea, equivalent to a parliament member, including Chongryon head Ho Jong Man and vice head Nam Sung U.
Unless the sanctions are removed, they are highly unlikely to be able to attend the Supreme People’s Assembly, Pyongyang’s equivalent of a parliament, given the ban on their re-entry afterward to Japan.
The five are also unlikely to be able to attend a rare ruling Workers’ Party congress scheduled in North Korea in early May, the first such convention in 36 years.
Among the initial 22 people put on the list are five members of an association of Korean scientists and engineers living in Japan suspected of being involved in missile engine development.
Japan banned the re-entry of around eight people, including senior Chongryon officials, from 2006 after a previous North Korean missile launch. But in July 2014, Tokyo repealed the measure after Pyongyang agreed to launch a new probe into Japanese nationals abducted to North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s, who remain missing.