Defectors who escaped North Korea say they were 'lured' to the country by the promise of living in "paradise on Earth" – and found themselves trapped for 43 years.
A Japanese judge has demanded that Kim Jong-un comes to court following human rights abuse claims in a landmark filing.
The North Korean tyrant has been summoned following a lawsuit from several ethnic Koreans living in Japan. They are seeking compensation for abuses they suffered in North Korea when they joined a resettlement programme.
They said that they were misled by the scheme which operated until 1984, and that promised a "paradise on Earth" but instead claim they were trapped and forced into manual labour.
It is very unlikely that Kim Jong-un will turn up to his hearing on October 14 but the case is still ground-breaking.
It is a very rare case where a foreign leader has not been granted sovereign immunity according to Kenji Fukunda, the lawyer representing the five plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs are each demanding 100m yen (£657,873) in compensation from North Korea for the suffering they endured as part of the programme that saw 93,000 ethnic Koreans leave Japan some time ago.
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The massive repatriation programme kicked off in 1959 as North Korea sought to replace workers killed in the Korean war. At the time, the Japanese government welcomed it, even arranging transport for the workers, as ethnic Koreans were viewed as outsiders.
Eiko Kawasaki, a 79-year-old plaintiff, left Japan in 1960 with the promise of free healthcare, education and jobs. She was trapped for 43 years, mostly working in manual labour, before managing to defect in 2003.
"If we were informed of the truth about North Korea, none of us would have gone," she said.
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She and the four other defectors filed the lawsuit at Tokyo district court back in August 2018. Three years on, Kim Jong-un has been called to face their demands for compensation.
The Japanese government has escaped any legal punishment from this lawsuit for their role in the resettlement programme, as they are protected by the statute of limitations.
Kawasaki said that the Japanese government "should also take responsibility" and that she hopes the case may help other ethnic Koreans "still waiting to be rescued".
She added: "It has taken so long for us to come this far.
"Finally, it’s time for justice."
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