Correction: An earlier version of this article said a signing ceremony was held in Pyongyang, this has been amended to China.
Miniso, a Uniqlo-style Japanese-Chinese low-cost retail brand which recently opened the first ever foreign brand chain outlet in North Korea, could be in breach of UN Security Council sanctions, a leading Japanese expert told NK News on Thursday.
“The reported opening of Miniso’s new branch in Pyongyang appears to be in non-compliance with the sanction measures imposed by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2321 adopted on November 30 in 2016,” Katsuhisa Furukawa, who served on the UN Security Council Panel of Experts on North Korean sanctions.
Furukawa said the article 31 of this resolution obliges all UN member states to close “representative offices, subsidiaries or banking accounts” inside North Korea.
If the violation of the UN resolution is confirmed, he said, governments such as Japan, China, and the U.S. would be obliged to place sanctions on the firm, in accordance with their obligations under UNSC resolutions.
“This is a very serious issue for the company,” Furukawa said. “Apparently, Miniso doesn’t know illegality of their business.”
“However, it’s not clear to me yet whether this will breach existing Japan’s laws, especially the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act which regulates the transfer of money and goods from Japan to the DPRK.”
“Such transfer would normally made through China, which must be established by the Japanese authorities to sanction this company.”
On 18 January this year, the Japanese brand signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the North Korea Economic and Trade Department, according to a press release from the company.
The release included a picture which showed Ye Guofu, the global co-founder of Miniso, in a group photo with Nam Chengyi, reportedly the chief delegate of North Korea Economic Cooperation Council China Dandong Office.
An intelligence officer at the Japanese police told NK News on Thursday that Nam, real name Nam Tae Hwa, is linked to Chongryon, a major pro-Pyongyang group for Koreans in Japan.
“He is a merchant rather than an organization person (of Chongryon),” the officer said, adding that the Japanese police knew in advance that he planned to open a shop in Pyongyang.
As of Friday morning, Miniso is yet to respond to requests for comment sent on Tuesday.
NK News on Tuesday spoke to Miyake Junya, the global co-founder and chief designer of Miniso.
Asked about a new shop in Pyongyang, Miyake said: “Really? I did not know. As for expanding shops abroad, maybe you can call our Chinese office. Ye Guo Fu is in charge of it.”
Ye is global co-founder and CEO of Miniso.
Despite his claims, Miniso’s press release names Miyake as having attended the signing ceremony in China in January.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Miniso
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