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A Small Japanese Towns View on the North Korean Sanctions Debate

I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Tokyo where all the talk in the media of the North Korean nuclear crisis – perhaps unsurprisingly. In the next issue of Ethical Corporation we’ll talk a little more about what the sanctions package proposed will actually mean for the DPRK, its people and foreign businesses already in the country and considering investments.

Still though the Japanese press was overwhelmingly pro-sanctions it seems those people living and working in the port towns that receive DPRK vessels are not so sure about the whole thing.

Maizuru in Kyoto Prefecture and, to a lesser extent, Sakaminato in Tottori Prefecture, locals are not so happy to lose business from and to the DPRK. Maizuru is the main port of call for those DPRK vessels now banned – around 250 ships a year representing approximately ¥4.5 billion in bilateral trade a year. Exports passing through Maizuru to the DPRK amounted to ¥1.73 billion in 2005, while imports from the North to Maizuru were¥2.8 billion (mostly cheap suits and seafood).

According to the generally dreary newspaper The Japan Times (slogan ‘All the News Without Fear or Favour’, though local wags suggest it should actually read ‘All the News Without Taste or Flavour’), the North Koreans mostly use Maizuru to ship second hand bicycles to the DPRK – which account for 40% of all exports. Some trade – imahine the impact of blockading those secondhand bikes on the DPRK’s economy.

Paul French – China Editor, Ethical Corporation

And also in a shameless plug the author of the book North Korea – The Paranoid Peninsula, see