The pro-Seoul group of Korean residents in Japan on Thursday officially retracted a statement of reconciliation with its pro-Pyongyang counterpart, ending a high-profile detente signed less than two months ago.
Mindan President Ha Byeong Ok announces the group’s decision Thursday in Tokyo to end its thaw with Chongryun.
The joint statement of reconciliation was signed May 17 when the leaders of the two groups held a historic meeting in an effort to end 60 years of hostilities.
“We hoped that our reconciliation would eventually serve to bridge the differences . . . between Japan and North Korea,” Mindan President Ha Byeong Ok said. “But North Korea’s missile launches have thrown Japanese society into anxiety and our efforts ended in failure.
“We will never forgive (North Korea’s) brutal act.”
Mindan mailed its retraction Thursday to the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryun), which represents residents from North Korea.
Chongryun, however, claimed it hadn’t heard anything from Mindan and thus cannot comment on the rift.
While Mindan blamed its decision on Wednesday’s missile launches, the accord had already been effectively scrapped over internal divisions and growing opposition from its regional chapters and organizations.
On June 24, Ha told an extraordinary meeting of its central committee in Tokyo that the situation had returned to square one.
All five Mindan vice presidents resigned that day to take the blame for the turmoil they caused by negotiating the statement in secret.
But Ha insisted Pyongyang’s missile tests were behind its decision.
“Although some regional chapters opposed the reconciliation, I was trying to change their hostile attitudes toward Chongryun,” Ha said, adding that the specter of North Korea’s missile launches was not on their radar screen when the two sides buried the hatchet.
Lee Young Hwa, a professor at Kansai University, said Mindan’s move was inevitable and may hurt Chongryun.
“Mindan’s local chapters did not know the content of the reconciliation (until Ha revealed it on May 17),” he said. “So it was natural they opposed it,” because their views on major problems, including the North’s nuclear weapons and abductions of Japanese, were not integrated into the reconciliation.
Lee, who heads Rescue the North Korean People! Urgent Action Network, a group in Osaka, said Chongryun may find itself more isolated.
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