By Ella Lloyd | Political Editor
The North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un may have to pay damages to those who were a part of a ‘resettlement’ scheme from 1959 to 1984.
The scheme saw more than 90,000 ethnic Koreans, many of whom were forcibly displaced to Japan during it’s colonial rule of Korea, return to their country of origin. These returnees made up for a labour shortage after North Korea lost many working age citizens in the Korean War. The programme advertised North Korea as a ‘paradise on earth’, with free education and vast opportunities. The reality however was a lack of human rights and forced labour, with no free will to leave.
Many Japanese spouses also migrated to North Korea under the scheme, which has been described as ‘state kidnapping’.
Five people who returned under the scheme and have since escaped North Korea are now sueing the state and its leader Kim Jong-Un for 100m Yen (£640,000) each in damages.
One plaintiff, Lee Tae-kyung, who travelled to North Korea as a child, told the New York Times: “We were told we were going to a ‘paradise on Earth’. Instead, we were taken to a hell and denied a most basic human right: the freedom to leave.”
The case is primarily symbolic; neither the plaintiffs nor their lawyer expect North Korea to accept the decision or pay any compensation. However, the case will highlight the ordeal of those who returned to North Korea under the scheme. It may also open up communication between North Korea and Japan, who currently have no formal diplomatic relations, if the court rules in the plaintiff’s favour. Their lawyer, Kenji Fukuda said “we hope that the Japanese government will be able to negotiate with North Korea”.
The five plaintiffs include 4 Koreans and the Japanese wife of a Korean man, all of whom returned to Japan after escaping North Korea.
They accuse North Korea of ‘false advertising’ of an idyllic homeland, whilst many Koreans faced discrimination in Japan after having their citizenship stripped after the Second World War.
The Japanese Government supported the scheme as they regarded Koreans as outsiders in Japanese society. The Japanese government is not a part of the current lawsuit.
The plaintiffs also complain of family members separated from them still in North Korea. “I don’t know what happened to my family. Maybe the coronavirus has hit them, maybe some of them have died of hunger,” said Eiko Kawasaki, one of the plaintiffs.
The Japanese director of Human Rights Watch has said that the Japanese Prime Minister should “demand that Kim Jong-Un allow those remaining in North Korea to return to Japan”.
The Court’s final decision is expected in March 2022.Ella Lloyd Politics twitter Follow @gairrhyddpol for all of the latest updates from the world of politics.