A Tokyo court is hearing whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-un should pay compensation for a 1959-84 scheme that saw more than 90,000 people relocate from Japan
Some later called the repatriation campaign “state kidnapping.”
Five participants who later fled the North have demanded 100 million yen ($880,000; £640,000) each.
They do not expect Mr. Kim to appear or pay up, but they hope that a ruling will help in future negotiations.
Thousands of Koreans were forced to relocate to Japan during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
The vast majority of those involved in the resettlement scheme were ethnic Koreans who were sold a vision of the “Fatherland” as “paradise,” and some Japanese spouses joined them. North Korea and Japan both backed the campaign.
After being devastated by World War II and the Korean War, the North was desperate to rebuild.
Japan saw the Koreans as outsiders and was eager to assist with their relocation.
The combination of discrimination in Japan and North
Korean propaganda promising an idyllic life of free healthcare, education, and employment in the homeland was a huge lure.
For many, reality consisted of forced manual labor in farms, mines, or factories, violations of human rights, and an inability to leave.
The five plaintiffs acknowledge that the court case has a symbolic feel to it.
The four ethnic Koreans who participated in the program, as well as the Japanese wife of a Korean, all defected to Japan.
“We don’t expect North Korea to accept a decision or pay the damages,” said the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Kenji Fukuda.
If they win, however, “we hope that the Japanese government will be able to negotiate with North Korea.”
There are no formal diplomatic relations between the two countries. Mr. Kim is named because he is the North’s current leader.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs was deceived by the North by providing for the false advertisement to relocate to North Korea, where the enjoyment of human rights was generallyimpossiblOne of the plaintiffs, ethnic Korean Eiko Kawasaki, 79, told the Associated Press that if they had known what was in store for them, they would not have
She fled the North in 2003, leaving her adult children behind.
Lee Tae Kyung, who sailed to the North when he was eight years old, is another compensation seeker. According to the New York Times, he stated: “We were promised a ‘paradise on Earth.’
Instead, we were transported to hell and denied a fundamental human right: the freedom to flee.”
After 46 years, Mr. Lee fled North Korea.