The head of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon), the most influential pro-North Korea body in Japan, did not meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during his trip to Pyongyang that wrapped up Tuesday, it was learned Sunday from sources familiar with the trip.
Ho Jong Man, head of Chongryon, was hoping to meet with Kim during his one-month stay in the country, his first trip there in eight years.
The fact that a meeting did not take place is likely to give rise to opinion that Chongryon’s influence in North Korea is on the decline.
According to the sources, during the trip, Ho received via a senior North Korean government official a letter from Kim in which he apparently communicated guidance on Chongryon’s management policy.
In a meeting held Friday to report to senior members of Chongryon on the trip, Ho did not touch on the contents of the letter, but also did not mention the abduction issue or the pending sale of the Chongryon headquarters building in central Tokyo.
Ho, accompanied by several executives of the association, arrived in Pyongyang on Sept. 6 for the first time since April 2006 after Japan eased travel restrictions between the two countries in July.
North Korea’s state media have not reported any appearances by Kim at public events since he watched a concert with his wife in Pyongyang on Sept. 3.
Kim also was not seen at a session of North Korea’s parliament on Sept. 25, raising speculation he is suffering from health problems.
The period of his absence in North Korean official reports is the longest since he inherited power after his father, Kim Jong Il, died in December 2011.
On his return to Japan, Ho told Chongryon members who came to meet him that Kim is “in great spirits.”