North Korea

Japan shrine wins bid for North Korea 'embassy'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 March, 2013, 2:54am

A Buddhist temple yesterday won an auction for North Korea's de facto embassy in Japan, after it was seized by authorities for unpaid debts, the religious body said.

The Saifukuji temple in southwestern Kagoshima topped the bidding, making an offer of 4.52 billion yen (HK$371 million) in the forced auction, one of the temple's secretaries said.

There had been speculation that any new owner could throw out the North Koreans, but temple chief, priest Ekan Ikeguchi, said the function of the building would not change.

"We will keep the building this way, and make it a place to promote harmony among Asia's different ethnic groups, including North Korea," he said.

According to the temple's website, Ikeguchi has visited North Korea several times.

The central Tokyo property - according to Jiji Press - has been used as the headquarters of Chongryon, the organisation that represents North Korean interests in Japan in the absence of diplomatic ties.