Five North Korean defectors in Japan filed a suit in Tokyo on Monday demanding Pyongyang pay ¥500 million in damages over its alleged human rights abuses.
The suit was filed with Tokyo District Court and was the first legal action against the North Korean government by defectors, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers.
The five claimed that North Korea asked Koreans living in Japan to return between 1959 and 1984 when the country advertised repeatedly through the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon) that it was a “heaven on earth” where things such as clothing, food and shelter were secure.
The plaintiffs said they returned to North Korea between 1960 and 1972, but they were forced to live under harsh conditions including not being able to get food.
They claimed that North Korea committed an act of state-sponsored kidnapping by deceiving victims.
They also said that their right to see their families in North Korea had been violated.
As Japan does not recognize North Korea as a sovereign state the court’s jurisdiction over the matter will be one of the focal points in the case, people familiar with the situation said.
“The children and grandchildren I left behind in North Korea may be in danger, but I’d like to see them again by appealing to international public opinion,” Eiko Kawasaki, 76, one of the plaintiffs, told a news conference.
“My parents who went back to North Korea with me wandered hopelessly in hell and ended their lives with regrets,” said Hiroko Sakakibara, 68, another plaintiff. “The rogue nation can’t be condoned.”
Some 93,000 Koreans in Japan went to North Korea during the campaign, according to the plaintiffs.