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First Dissenting Opinion in 50 Years

Posted June. 18, 2004 22:15,   


The leaders of the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryeon) were baffled at the general assembly which witnessed the first-ever opposing opinion in 50 years.

The 20th general assembly, which is held every three years, was opened in Tokyo on May 28, drawing 2,000 delegates across Japan. This year’s assembly was the first meeting after the historic South-North Korea summit.

Given the association’s secrecy and totalitarianism, making an opposing statement is highly unprecedented. The event was unfolded at the closing session in May 29 when the delegates discussed appointments.

The president of the association, Seo Man-sul, and the vice president, Heo Jong-man, are in charge of personnel appointments. There are four vice presidents in the association.

Vice president Nam Seung-woo, who was also the chairperson of the meeting, was about to pass the proposal of appointments after perfunctorily asking whether there were any dissenting opinions. At this moment, one delegate from Tokyo raised the hand and opposed the proposal.

There was a moment of stir in the audience since it was the first-ever dissenting opinion in the 50-year history of Chongryeon. The organizers ordered the delegate out of the room, saying the speaker was not in his reserved seat and therefore his opinion was invalid. Subsequently, the delegates passed the bill unanimously.

One Japanese expert said that the event showed the internal changes of the association. He added that any delegates who challenged the leadership of Chongryeon would have been killed in the past.

The delegate, whose father was also a member of the association, has been critical of the Seo Man-sul and Heo Jong-man leadership.

Many experts agree that the association, which is North Korea’s de facto embassy, is undergoing dramatic changes.

Hun-Joo Cho hanscho@donga.com