The Japanese headquarters of Miniso, a Uniqlo-style Japanese-Chinese low-cost retail brand, is not involved in the recent opening of the company’s first shop in North Korea, a spokesperson told NK News on Thursday.
Ma Jian, a spokesperson for Miniso in Tokyo, said its Japanese headquarters was not linked to a deal to open a store in Pyongyang.
“After consultation with a lawyer and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), we reached an early conclusion that the Japanese arm of Miniso was not engaged in it,” Ma told NK News over the phone. “The Japanese side did not get involved in this matter. The Japanese office only does Japan-related business.”
“We’ll have a final conclusion on this matter in early July.”
His comments distance Miniso’s Japanese operations from its operations in China, as Japanese law places strict sanctions against companies that do business in North Korea.
Until now Miniso, a four-year-old retail company, has frequently claimed to be headquartered in Japan – claims that have been contested in the past.
But Miniso’s headquarters are located in Ginza of Tokyo, a copy of corporate registration obtained by NK News showed.
Representatives of the brand signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the North Korea Economic and Trade Department on January 18 this year, according to a press release from the company.
The release included a picture which showed Ye Guofu, the Chinese co-founder of Miniso, and Miyake Jyunya, its Japanese co-founder and chief designer, in a group photo with Nam Chengyi, reportedly the chief delegate of the North Korea Economic Cooperation Council China Dandong Office.
“We cannot comment on individual issues,” an officer at Japan’s METI said in an interview with NK News on Friday, while contesting Ma’s assertion that the ministry had reached an “early conclusion”.
Katsuhisa Furukawa, a Japanese expert who served on the UN Security Council Panel of Experts on North Korean sanctions, has said that the opening of Miniso’s new branch in Pyongyang appears to be in non-compliance with measures imposed on the DPRK by United Nations Security Council Resolution 2321 on November 30 last year.
Furukawa said article 31 of the resolution obliges all UN member states to close “representative offices, subsidiaries or banking accounts” inside North Korea.
An officer at the trade control policy division of the METI, speaking to NK News on Monday on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Japan imposes a total ban on imports and exports with North Korea.
“If the Japanese headquarters order its Chinese branch to export goods to North Korea, it will be judged as intermediate trade,” the officer said. “And this is forbidden by the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Control Law.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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