TOKYO (AP) — A Tokyo court on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by five people seeking responsibility for North Korea’s abuses, citing a statute of limitations that they said they had for decades. were victims when they were lured north by false promises of staying Pyongyang. “Heaven on Earth.”
Five plaintiffs, including ethnic Koreans and Japanese, who migrated to the north as part of a 1959-1984 repatriation program and have since fled, filed suit in 2018 seeking 100 million yen ($900,000), which they claimed. Said it was illegal. “Solicitation and Detention.”
In Wednesday’s ruling, the Tokyo District Court focused on whether the court had jurisdiction over the case, while explicitly stating whether the repatriation program, which was also facilitated by Japan’s government, was illegal. .
Instead, the court dismissed the case, noting that the plaintiffs waited too long to take legal action. The plaintiffs moved north between 1960 and 1972, and by the time they filed the case, 20 years of limitation had passed, it said.
Judge Akihiro Igarashi also said that a Japanese court had no jurisdiction over his “detention” in North Korea.
Kenji Fukuda, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said he decided to appeal because “the court did not respond to the case.”
“I feel like crying,” said one plaintiff, Eiko Kawasaki, 79, an ethnic-Korean who was born and raised in Japan and moved north in 1960. “There should be no statute of limitations for human rights violations.”
Kawasaki also urged the court for a speedy trial because time was limited for the elderly litigant.
“It has to be done quickly or we will not live to a verdict. Not being able to see the verdict while we are alive means I will die without seeing my children and grandchildren,” she said.
Fukuda said the court accepted most of the evidence presented by the plaintiffs, including a deceptive campaign conducted in Japan for repatriation and living conditions in the North – a reference to a legal case in Japan against North Korea over human rights violations. To set an example
Fukuda urged the Japanese government to support the victims and hold talks with North Korea to take responsibility for Pyongyang in the future. The court also agreed to summon North Korean leader Kim Jong Un symbolically.
Hundreds of thousands of Koreans came to Japan to work in mines and factories during Japan’s colonization of the Korean Peninsula, many forcibly to work in mines and factories – a past that still plagues relations between Japan and Korea.
Today, nearly half a million ethnic Koreans live in Japan and still face discrimination in school, work and daily life.
In 1959, North Korea began a massive resettlement program to bring overseas Koreans home for workers killed in the Korean War. The program continued to seek recruits until 1984, many of whom were originally from South Korea.
Seeing Koreans as outsiders, the Japanese government also welcomed the resettlement program and helped arrange for people to travel to North Korea. About 93,000 ethnic Korean residents of Japan and their family members responded and moved to North Korea.
The plaintiffs say they believe many of them are dead, but that their descendants are still in North Korea who must be rescued. According to a group supporting defectors from the north, about 150 of them have made it back to Japan.
The plaintiffs said that North Korea had promised free health care, education, jobs and other benefits, but none were available and the returnees were mostly assigned manual work in mines, forests or farms.
Born and raised in Kyoto, Kawasaki was 17 years old when she took a ship north in 1960 and confined there in 2003, leaving behind her older children.
The plaintiffs are now concerned about their families in North Korea. He says he lost contact with him more than two years ago, apparently because of the pandemic.
Another plaintiff, Hiroko Saito, 80, said, “I hope the Japanese people still alive in the north will return home.” She moved north in 1961 with her Korean husband and a baby girl, until she fled in 2001.
While the Japanese government only focuses on Japanese citizens kidnapped in the North in the 1970s and 80s, it should equally support those who were in the repatriation program as they are both victims of North Korean human rights abuses. , He said.