by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
It’s been 15 years since Kim Dong-shik, a South Korean pastor with permanent resident status in the United States, was kidnapped by North Korean agents in northeastern China, but the family of the late pastor has finally found some measure of justice.
On April 9, the Washington D.C. District Court ordered North Korea to pay $300 million in punitive damages for Rev. Kim’s abduction and presumed torture and killing, according to the New York Times. The court also ordered the North to pay $15 million in compensation each to Rev. Kim’s brother, Yong-seok Kim, and his son, Han Kim.
“North Korea has caused irreparable emotional and psychological harm to the Kims,” Chief Judge Richard W. Roberts said in his ruling.
Rev. Kim, then 52, was kidnapped in January 2000 while hailing a taxi in the Chinese border town of Yanji, where he provided aid to North Korean defectors and refugees. A group of unidentified men jumped the pastor, and the car sped away. It was the last time Rev. Kim was ever seen in public.
Although Kim’s family suspected that North Korean agents were involved, there was very little evidence regarding the pastor’s disappearance. That changed in April 2005, when a North Korean defector, Chung Kwang-il, arrived in South Korea and told government officials that he had seen Rev. Kim in an underground cell in Hoeryong, a North Korean town across the border from Yanji, soon after his kidnapping.
Chung revealed that one of Kim’s kidnappers, Liu Yong-hua, had fled to South Korea to avoid questioning from the Chinese police about the abduction. South Korean authorities quickly arrested Liu, who confessed to participating in Rev. Kim’s abduction and admitted that the abduction team spent 10 months plotting the seizure, according to the Washington Post.
In 2009, Israeli civic group Shurat HaDin filed a lawsuit against North Korea on behalf of Rev. Kim’s family. However, the North never admitted kidnapping the pastor and refused to respond to the lawsuit.
A district court in the U.S. initially dismissed the lawsuit, claiming that there was insufficient evidence that proved North Korea was responsible for torturing and killing Rev. Kim at a prison camp. But an appeals court overturned that ruling in December 2014, granting default judgment to Rev. Kim’s family. It argued that North Korea had successfully blocked all specific details of Rev. Kim’s plight from being leaked and that testimony from experts on widespread torture in North Korean gulags were enough for the family to seek damages.
“The Kims’ evidence that the regime abducted the Reverend, that it invariably tortures and kills prisoners like him, and that it uses terror and intimidation to prevent witnesses from testifying allows us to reach the logical conclusion that the regime tortured and killed the Reverend,” the appeals court said in its written decision.
Despite the U.S. court ordering North Korea to pay $330 million in damages for Rev. Kim’s abduction, few expect the regime to actually comply with the verdict and pay the vast sum.
Shurat HaDin plans to seize North Korean assets that the U.S. government has frozen as part of financial sanctions against Pyongyang, reports Yonhap News Agency.
Featured image via The Times of Israel