In Tokyo, defectors sue North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for repatriations.
On Thursday, North Korean defectors in Tokyo symbolically summoned Kim Jong Un to court over what they call a “state kidnapped” repatriation scheme.
The unusual case is an attempt to hold Pyongyang accountable for a scheme that saw over 90,000 Japanese people relocate to North Korea between 1959 and 1984.
The program primarily targeted ethnic Koreans, but it also attracted their Japanese spouses, who were drawn in by fantasy propaganda promising “heaven on Earth.”
In their action before the Tokyo District Court, five participants in the repatriation plan who later escaped from North Korea are seeking damages of 100 million yen ($880,000) each.
They accuse Pyongyang of “deceiving plaintiffs by misleading advertising to relocate to North Korea,” where “human rights were often impossible to enjoy.”
Because Japan and North Korea have no diplomatic connections, Kim has been summoned to lead the North Korean government.
“We don’t anticipate North Korea to accept a decision or pay the damages,” plaintiffs’ lawyer Kenji Fukuda said at a press conference last month.
“However, if the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, we expect that the Japanese government will be able to negotiate with North Korea,” he continued.
In total, 93,340 persons took part in the repatriation program, which was funded by Pyongyang and carried out by the Red Cross Societies in Japan and North Korea.
The initiative was also sponsored by the Japanese government, with the media portraying it as a humanitarian effort to help Koreans struggling to make a living in Japan.
During Tokyo’s colonial domination of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945, millions of Koreans freely or involuntarily relocated to Japan.
Hundreds of thousands remained in Japan after the capitulation, unwilling to return to their shattered nation.
They lost their Japanese citizenship and became stateless, and many of them trusted propaganda videos depicting a happy existence in North Korea.
Separation from their relatives who remain trapped in the secluded country is one of the defectors’ grievances.
“What happened to my family is a mystery to me. Perhaps the coronavirus has infected them, or perhaps some of them have died of starvation “One of the five claimants, Eiko Kawasaki, stated last month.