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called on consumers to stop buying North Korean asari because the littleneck clams are Japan’s top import from the country.

The tiny shellfish are commonly served up in home-cooked meals and miso soup.

Japan imported 4.48 billion yen worth of littleneck clams from North Korea in 2003, the group said. That accounted for 22.2 percent of the country’s exports, behind queen crabs, at 8.4 percent, and men’s suits, at 7.7 percent.

The 31,956 tons of North Korean asari consumed in Japan in 2003 also accounted for 36.8 percent of Japan’s total asari consumption, although few retailers label them as North Korean, the group said.

“If we don’t buy asari, the (North Korean) people would eat them by themselves or sell them on the black market,” said Tsutomu Nishioka, a professor at Tokyo Christian University and a key member of NARKN.

Nishioka claimed that the profits from littleneck clam exports only go to the military or other government bodies, and that boycotting them would not hurt the people who are being forced by the government to collect the shellfish from government-controlled beaches.

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