A Japanese judge summons the North Korean leader to face compensation claims from several Korean ethnic residents of Japan who say they suffered human rights violations in North Korea after joining a resettlement program there
TOKYO (AP) – A Japanese court has summoned the North Korean leader to respond to compensation claims from several Korean ethnic residents of Japan who say they suffered human rights violations in North Korea after joining a resettlement program there -bas which promised a “paradise on Earth,” a lawyer and plaintiff said on Tuesday.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is not expected to appear in court for the October 14 hearing, but the judge’s decision to summon him is a rare case in which a foreign leader has not been granted sovereign immunity. said Kenji Fukuda, a lawyer representing the five plaintiffs.
They are asking for 100 million yen ($ 900,000) each in compensation from North Korea for the human rights violations they say they suffered in connection with the resettlement program.
About 93,000 Korean residents of Japan and their family members traveled to North Korea decades ago because of promises of a better life. Many have been discriminated against in Japan.
Eiko Kawasaki, 79, a Korean born and raised in Japan, was 17 when she left in 1960, a year after North Korea started the massive repatriation program to compensate workers killed in the Korean War and bring the Koreans from overseas home. The program continued to seek recruits, many of whom were from South Korea, until 1984.
The Japanese government also hosted the program, viewing Koreans as foreigners, and helped organize their transport to North Korea.
Kawasaki said she was confined to North Korea for 43 years until she could defect in 2003, leaving behind her adult children.
North Korea had promised free health care, education, jobs and other benefits, she said, but none of them were available and they were mostly assigned to manual labor in mines, forests or farms.
“If we had been told the truth about North Korea, none of us would have gone,” she said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Kawasaki and the four other defectors from the program filed a lawsuit in August 2018 against the North Korean government in the Tokyo District Court, demanding compensation.
The court, after three years of pre-trial discussions, agreed to summon Kim Jong Un to its first hearing on October 14, said Fukuda, their lawyer.
Fukuda said he did not expect Kim to appear or pay compensation if the court so orders, but hopes the case can set a precedent for future negotiations between Japan and North Korea. on the search for the responsibility of the North and the normalization of diplomatic relations.
Although the statute of limitations prohibits legally asking the Japanese government to be responsible for helping the program, Kawasaki hopes Japan can help secure the return of thousands of participants “while they wait to be rescued out of Korea.” North “.
“I think the Japanese government should also take responsibility,” she said.
Kawasaki’s father was among the hundreds of thousands of Koreans brought to Japan, in great force, to work in mines and factories before and during World War II. Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula in 1910-1945 – a past that still puts strain on relations between Japan and the Koreas.
Today, around half a million ethnic Koreans live in Japan and continue to face discrimination at school, at work and in their daily lives.
“It’s taken us so long to get here,” said Kawasaki. “Finally, it is the hour of justice.”