Japan firm gets control of de facto North Korean embassy: Reports

A Japanese real estate company on Friday took over ownership of a Tokyo property that has served as North Korea`s de facto embassy for decades, after a forced auction to repay outstanding debts, reports said.

AFP| Last Updated: Nov 21, 2014, 17:04 PM IST

Tokyo: A Japanese real estate company on Friday took over ownership of a Tokyo property that has served as North Korea`s de facto embassy for decades, after a forced auction to repay outstanding debts, reports said.

The sprawling downtown site -- a 2,390-square-metre (25,725-square-feet) plot and 10-storey building -- was officially transferred to Marunaka Holdings, after the company paid 2.21 billion yen ($18.77 million) for the site, public broadcaster NHK and other Japanese media reported.

Neither the Tokyo District Court nor the property developer`s lawyer could immediately confirm the ownership transfer. 

However, the reports followed a Supreme Court decision this month to uphold the sale order.

The property is still occupied by Chongryon -- the organisation that represents North Korean interests in Japan in the absence of diplomatic ties -- and it was unclear if the organisation would vacate the site. 

A Chongryon spokesman said Friday that the organisation has not been informed of the official change in ownership.

"So we are in not in a place to make any comment on this matter," he told AFP.

The group was ordered to sell the property to pay outstanding loans dating back to the collapse of Japan`s bubble economy at the end of the 1990s.

Earlier reports said the Japanese real-estate firm was planning to remove the North Korean-linked organisation from the property.

A series of auctions for the property were organised, with prospective buyers submitting offers for the building, which appears to have changed little inside since it was built in the mid-1980s.

Portraits of the founding father of North Korea, Kim Il-Sung and his successor-son, Kim Jong-Il, loomed over journalists at a rare press conference earlier this year inside the building in central Tokyo that is officially the headquarters of pro-Pyongyang Koreans who live in Japan.

At the briefing, Chongryon called a lower court`s decision to let the developer take over the property an "unbearable act of animosity against our country".

In March, the district court accepted the developer`s offer, and rejected a huge bid from an obscure Mongolia-registered company would not be permitted because it appeared to have links to Pyongyang.

Japanese law forbids participation of the seller in the bidding of a forced auction.

Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Koreans live in Japan, mostly a legacy of those who emigrated or were forced to move to Japan during its 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean peninsula.

About 10 percent are believed to be affiliated with Chongryon, which charges that the community is persecuted by authorities and harassed by right-wing activists.