(Tokyo) Those who left North Korea identified with President Kim Jong-un in Tokyo on Thursday, saying, “The former country should take responsibility for the plan to return from Japan.
This extraordinary court case seeks to hold the Pyongyang government accountable for a controversial plan that forced more than 90,000 people to leave Japan for Japan between 1959 and 1984.
The project was mainly aimed at Koreans living in the Japanese archipelago, but their Japanese spouses were inspired by the campaign promising “paradise on earth” in communist North Korea.
Five people involved in a repatriation plan from the north each filed their lawsuit Thursday in a Tokyo court seeking 100 million yen (CAN $ 1.1 million) in damages.
They allege that Pyongyang “deceived the plaintiffs with false advertising in order to relocate to North Korea” and “forced them to live in situations where enjoying human rights is generally impossible.”
Due to the lack of diplomatic relations between Japan and North Korea, Kim Jong Un is identified as the head of government in Pyongyang.
“We do not expect North Korea to accept a verdict or pay damages,” plaintiff’s lawyer Kenji Fukuda told a news conference last month. “But we hope the Japanese government can negotiate with North Korea,” the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.
“May be hungry”
A total of 93,340 people participated in the Pyongyang-funded repatriation program carried out by the Red Cross in Japan and North Korea. The Japanese government also supported the plan, which was condemned by its opponents as a way to reduce the number of Koreans living in Japan in Tokyo.
Mr Fukuda said the plaintiffs considered the North Korean government to be “the most responsible agency in the organization.”
Part of the complaint of the displaced is related to being trapped in North Korea and being separated from their families. “I do not know what happened to my family. The corona virus may have infected them and some of them may have died of starvation,” said Iko Kawasaki, one of the complainants, in September.
“Plaintiffs have the will to save those living in North Korea and those who are still suffering,” Hiroki Seki, chairman of the Transgender Support Group, told AFP on Thursday.
During the colonization of the Korean Peninsula by Tokyo between 1910 and 1945, millions of Koreans emigrated to Japan voluntarily or against their will. When Japan surrendered at the end of World War II, hundreds of thousands of ethnic Koreans were reluctant to return to their devastated country.
They were deprived of Japanese nationality and became stateless. Many of them believed in propaganda films depicting free health and education systems in North Korea, guaranteed jobs and a beautiful life with housing. But the real situation is very different, dominated by poverty and famine.
Plaintiffs began their proceedings in 2018. Judgment date is set for Thursday.