• Kyodo


Maritime authorities decided Tuesday to send papers to prosecutors on the captain of the controversial North Korean ferry Mangyongbong-92 over an alleged safety violation.

Japan Coast Guard officials said the captain of the 9,672-ton passenger-cargo ferry allegedly allowed passengers on board beyond its legally defined capacity of 220 when it last visited Niigata on Sept. 5, the officials said.

The case was to be turned over to prosecutors on Wednesday, the officials said.

Investigators searched the ship after it made another port call at Niigata Tuesday morning. The visit was the ferry’s third since resuming port calls in August after a seven-month hiatus.

It travels between Wonsan, North Korea, and Niigata on an irregular basis.

The alleged violation could result in imprisonment of up to one year or a fine of up to 500,000 yen.

According to the officials, the Mangyongbong-92 departed Niigata for Wonsan on Sept. 5 with 255 passengers on board, 35 over the legal limit.

The departure of the Mangyongbong-92 was to be delayed until Wednesday afternoon, a few hours later than the original schedule, the officials said.

The action came on the eve of the first anniversary of the Sept. 17, 2002, summit between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

The ship’s arrival Tuesday ignited protests from a local support group for Japanese abducted by North Korea.

In its latest visit, the passenger-cargo vessel is carrying 218 passengers, 72 crew members and 3 tons of carrot liquor for export to Japan, according to its shipping agent in Niigata.

The passengers include members of a delegation from the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryun) who took part in North Korean celebrations to mark the 55th anniversary of the country’s founding Sept. 9, the agent said.

The ship has come under strict Japanese scrutiny because police allege it has been involved in espionage and illicit trading.

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