Family members of South Koreans abducted during the Korean War announced their plan to sue North Korea at a news conference in Seoul today. Yonhap News/Newscom via ZUMA Press
Relatives of South Koreans abducted 70 years ago have filed a $28 million lawsuit against the North Korean regime — on the 70th anniversary of the Korean War.
The suit, filed by lawyers for the civil group Human Rights and Unification of Korea, accuses North Korea of not taking responsibility for the 1950-’53 war or providing information on the whereabouts of the abductees, the newspaper Korea JoonAng Daily reported.
According to South Korean figures, North Korea kidnapped at least 3,835 South Koreans between the 1950s and ’70s when the North trained abductees for propaganda and spying.
But the lawyers claimed the number of abductees is much higher.
“On that day 70 years ago, [North Korea’s founder] Kim Il Sung launched a surprise invasion of the South and in order to gain human resources kidnapped around 100,000 civilians from the South, including members of South Korea’s early leadership and top professionals from many fields,” the group said in a press release.
Most who were kidnapped were either released or escaped back to the South but as of 2015, 516 never returned, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said.
Plaintiffs in the suit include family members of Jeong In-bo, a historian is best known for writing songs for five of Korea’s major holidays, Lee Gil-Yong, a reporter for daily newspaper Dong-A Ilbo, and former Seoul District Court Judge Kim Yoon-chan, according to Korea JoongAng Daily.
The complaint was filed after the release of a 2014 report by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea and a report by the South Korean government in 2017. Both said the abductions were war crimes and crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
The group also says the kidnappings are considered a serious criminal act under the South Korean Constitution and civil law — though North Korea doesn’t fall under South Korean domestic law. Pyongyang is also not a signatory to the Rome Statute.
The North has long denied carrying out the kidnappings, saying the South Koreans want to remain in the North.