| 30 May 2024, Thursday |

After decades of misery, Japanese escapee sues North Korean govt for ordeal

Japanese national Hiroko Saito, who escaped North Korea, has sued the Kim Jong-un-led government, for suffering starvation and repression for decades,

Saito says in the 1960s, she and 97,000 others were deceived into relocating to the North with promises of “paradise on Earth”.

Saito and five others are taking part in a lawsuit at the Tokyo District Court. It is due to rule on October 14 over the responsibility of the North Korean government for their ordeal.

Although plaintiffs are also demanding compensation from the Kim Jong-un government, Saito says her campaign is not about the money.

The escapee said, “We had been told we were going to paradise on Earth, that we would have our own apartment, jobs and that hospitals and schools were free. They told us we did not need to take anything with us, that everything would be provided. They kept repeating that it was paradise.”

“Then we arrived and I saw the boy from the ship. He only had a tattered old shirt and nothing on the lower half of his body. He looked thin and poor. It was at that moment that I knew. I knew we had been deceived,” 80-year-old Saito told DW.

At the arrival with hundreds of returnees and their families from Japan at Chongjin in 1961, Saito was greeted by poverty-stricken residents and heavily armed soldiers. The situation had worsened soon in the country.

After four decades of hunger, repression and violence, she was finally able to escape over the border into China and, ultimately, return to Japan in 2001.