Office 39 implicated in pine mushroom smuggling operation

An investigation launched by Japanese
police has revealed that Office 39, a special department charged with raising
funds for Kim Jong Un’s use, is involved in illegal operation exporting pine
mushrooms to Japan, Yomiuri Shimbun, a Japanese daily, reported on May 27th.

During a police raid on the home Huh Jong Do, the son of the head of the pro-North General Association of Korean Residents
in Japan [Chongryon], the authorities uncovered documents revealing correspondence
between the group and Office 39, revealing that North Korea has been exporting
pine mushrooms to Japan in conjunction with Chosun 
Specialty Sales, an
affiliate of Chongryon.

An official with the investigation said it
was the first time documents explicitly stating “Office 39” have come to light,
leading police to push ahead with the investigation and assert the shadowy
agency’s direct involvement in the illicit operation. 

Both Huh and Kim Yong Jak, head of Chosun Specialty
Sales, were arrested on May 12th for violating laws administration of foreign
currency. Police investigations revealed that these two men had imported
approximately 1,800 kg of pine mushrooms from North Korea in September of 2010–a
clear violation of Japan’s ban on trading with North Korea, implemented after
North Korea’s second nuclear test in 2009.  

Meanwhile, Washington D.C.-based Voice of
America, quoting Japanese daily Sankei Shimbun, that Office 39, Huh, and Chosun
Specialty Sales were all involved in the pine mushroom smuggling ring, dividing
the profits among the involved parties.