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Court cancels preferential tax measure for pro-N. Korea group's hall+
[February 02, 2006]

Court cancels preferential tax measure for pro-N. Korea group's hall+

(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)FUKUOKA, Feb. 2_(Kyodo) _ The Fukuoka High Court ruled Thursday that a facility owned by a pro-North Korea organization is not eligible for preferential tax treatment as it does not benefit the Japanese public, reversing a lower court decision which recognized the public nature of the hall in Kumamoto.

It is the first judicial decision in Japan to nullify the reduction and exemption of fixed property and other local taxes on Korean halls affiliated with the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, also known as Chongryon.

Presiding Judge Hiroyuki Nakayama said in handing down the ruling, "We do not at all recognize any evidence that the hall was used for the public's benefit, and there exists no reason to reduce or exempt taxes."

Nakayama also said Chongryon "conducts activities to advocate the benefits of Korean residents of Japan under the leadership of North Korea and in unity with North Korea and is not an organization that benefits in general the society of our country."

According to the ruling, the Kumamoto municipal government reduced fixed property tax and city planning tax for the Kumamoto Korean hall, saying it is equivalent to a public facility because it is used for community exchanges. The hall was exempt from paying 305,300 yen in such taxes in fiscal 2003.

In January 2004, members of the Kumamoto chapter of the National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea filed the lawsuit against Kumamoto Mayor Seishi Koyama, demanding he seek repayment of past reduced taxes and stop giving preferential tax treatment to Chongryon.

The Kumamoto District Court ruled in April 2005 that Kumamoto Korean hall was eligible for preferential tax treatment, rejecting the plaintiffs' demands. The Kumamoto abductee support group immediately filed an appeal against the ruling with the Fukuoka High Court.

A number of other local governments in Japan have exempted or reduced taxes for properties owned by Chongryon because of their perceived function as a de facto diplomatic mission. Japan and North Korea do not have diplomatic ties.

But some localities have reversed their policies and started imposing full taxes on the properties, particularly after North Korea admitted in September 2002 that its agents abducted 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s.

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