National

Chongryon to pay Hokkaido hut owner for damages on behalf of arrested North Korean crewmen

Kyodo

A pro-Pyongyang organization plans to pay for the property taken from a remote fishing hut on an island off Hokkaido on behalf of the North Korean fishermen who were arrested over the crime, a source said.

The General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, known as Chongryon, will pay damages to the owner of the hut because it wants three North Koreans arrested on suspicion of stealing a power generator, and their seven crew mates, to return home as soon as possible, the source said Friday.

A lawyer representing the crewmen made the offer to the owner, a local fisheries cooperative, on Thursday, the source said. The cooperative will discuss the matter as soon as Monday and is likely to accept.

An official at the Chongryon office in Hokkaido said it had no comment at this stage.

Appliances, a motorbike and other equipment were taken from the hut on the uninhabited isle off the town of Matsumae. The cooperative estimates the loss at ¥7.9 million ($69,000).

The 10 North Korean crewmen were aboard a wooden boat that was found drifting near the island in late November. They told the Japan Coast Guard that they temporarily took shelter on the islet due to bad weather.

The three were arrested this month while the Immigration Bureau took six other crew members into custody. One was hospitalized after complaining of ill health.

According to investigators, one crew member said during questioning before the arrests that crewmen had taken appliances from the island.

Boats apparently from North Korea regularly wash ashore in northern Japan, including some with bodies aboard.

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