North Korean defectors testified on Thursday (14) in a Tokyo court for a symbolic lawsuit against Kim Jong Un, to hold him responsible as the current ruler of the regime for a former Pyongyang repatriation program that it considered “state kidnappings ”.
Although the current North Korean leader was barely born when the program in question ended, the five plaintiffs seek to symbolically try him as the regime’s representative for the repatriation of 90,000 Koreans from Japan between 1959 and 1984.
The program, aimed at Koreans living in Japan and their Japanese partners and partners, promised “heaven on earth” for those who moved to the communist country.
The five plaintiffs are participants in the program that managed to escape the country and now claim 100 million yen ($883,000) from North Korea in damages and interest.
In court, they accused the communist regime of “lying to applicants with false propaganda” and of having “forced them to live in conditions in which it was generally impossible to enjoy human rights”.
The court has yet to set the date for the trial of the case initiated in 2018.
As Japan and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations, Kim Jong Un would be symbolically tried as the head of government of Pyongyang.
“We don’t expect North Korea to accept a decision or to pay damages and interest,” admitted Kenji Fukuda, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, in an interview in September.
“But we hope the Japanese government will be in a position to negotiate with North Korea if the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs,” he added.
In total, 93,340 people participated in the Pyongyang-funded repatriation program administered by Red Cross associations in Japan and North Korea.
The Japanese government also supported the plan, which some critics saw as a way for Tokyo to reduce the number of Koreans in the country.
Attorney Fukuda said his clients consider the North Korean government “the entity with the most responsibility.”
A part of the deserters’ demand concerns the separation of their families, still blocked in North Korea.
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