10/24/2006, 00.00
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North Koreans in Japan: the only ones to pay for the nuclear test of Kim Jong-il

The government of Tokyo has applied unilateral sanctions against Pyongyang that block meager bilateral trade and prevent ships from docking if they are going from or to North Korea. The only ones to suffer are 600,000 North Korean residents in Japan, who will lose all contact with relatives on the peninsula.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Unilateral sanctions declared by Tokyo against Pyongyang as a punishment for its "nuclear provocation" on 9 October are unlikely to have serious repercussions on most people in Japan, excluding a community of around 600,000 North Koreans living there. These people will have to endure new humiliations because of the decisions of Pyongyang's regime and they risk losing all contacts with family members on the peninsula.

The sanctions imposed by the Japanese government are purely economic products from North Korea do not have a big market in the country, after the nuclear crisis and charges leveled at the Stalinist regime regarding the abductions of Japanese arrested as spies.

Japan accounts for 4.7% of North Korea's US$ 4 billion earned in overseas trade: major imports are matsutake mushrooms and seafood.

In effect, Japan imposed a six-month ban on trade imports and on the docking and departure of ships from the northern part of the peninsula, with which Tokyo does not have diplomatic ties.

The second punitive measure strikes only the community of North Koreans resident in Japan, 600,000 people who are thus losing all opportunities of getting news about their families.

Kang Shin-suk is 89. She lives in a working-class district in the north of Tokyo, Koreatown. She used to go home once or twice a year by the only ferry running between the two countries, to visit her son who lives there with eight children.

She said: "Now my health is failing. I might die soon. The nuclear bomb is made everywhere. But why do they make a fuss when it is made there?"

Another factor affecting the Korean community in Japan is discrimination and threats, due to the sensitivity of the Japanese people about nuclear threats: the country of the Rising Sun is the only one to have suffered a nuclear attack and the threat from Kim Jong-il opens deep wounds.

Right-wing groups have staged anti-nuclear rallies outside the headquarters of the General Association of Korean Residents (Chongryon) affiliated to the dictatorship. Moreover, schools of the North Korean community have received anonymous threatening phone calls.

The latest harassment adds to a long list of discriminations against Koreans dating from the invasion of the Korean peninsula by Tokyo's imperial army in 1910. The consequent occupation, which lasted until Japan's war defeat in 1945, left strong mutual suspicion between the two peoples.

At the end of World War II, there were two million Koreans in Japan: many worked in mines and factories. The Immigration Bureau said the number was down to nearly 600,000 people at the end of 2005, who are now stuck in a country that does not want them.  

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