A key man in Japan-North Korea relations — Ho Jong Man, chairman of the pro-Pyongyang group Chyongryon, or General Association of Korean Residents in Japan — appears to be about to quietly pull the curtain down on his public life. And internal strife seems to be erupting on the choice of his successor.

After the police searched Ho's residence in Suginami Ward, Tokyo, on March 26 in connection with alleged illegal import of matsutake mushrooms from North Korea by a company affiliated with the association, he spoke to dozens of reporters in front of his home, bitterly criticizing the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Japanese police.

According to a public security source, however, Ho was at his physical limit. In fact, he was hospitalized twice in March for melena caused by an ailment in his internal organs.