North Korea Held Liable by U.S. Court for Torturing Pastor

The family of a missionary kidnapped by North Korean security forces more than a decade ago provided enough evidence to hold the country liable for his torture and suspected killing, an appeals court in Washington ruled, reversing a lower court decision.

The Reverend Dong Shik Kim, a permanent U.S. resident, spent almost 10 years providing humanitarian and religious services to North Korean defectors and refugees, according to the appeals court. He was abducted in northeastern China in 2000 after the North Korean government found out about his activities, the court said. Kim’s fate is still unknown.

“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, sending the case back to the lower court for a default judgment in favor of the missionary’s family.

Sony Hack

The ruling comes amid heightened tension between North Korea and the U.S. Yesterday, U.S. officials used a United Nations forum to blame the country for a hacking attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., accusing the regime of attempting to suppress freedom of speech by trying to stop the release of “The Interview,” a comedy about a plot to assassinate North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.

Eleven of the Security Council’s 15 members voted to take up a 400-page UN commission report urging that North Korea and its leader be held accountable for crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court. China and and Russia opposed the debate while two other members abstained. The session was proposed before the attack on Sony was made public.

In the case of the missionary, North Korea failed to appear or answer allegations raised in a lawsuit brought by his family in 2009. The judge refused to find North Korea liable without a trial, saying the family failed to produce “first-hand evidence” of what happened to the reverend.

The appeals court disagreed and said there was enough admissible evidence submitted, citing a South Korean court’s conviction of a North Korean intelligence agent for planning and executing Kim’s kidnapping along with expert testimony on victims who disappeared in the country.

If North Korea is “unhappy” with the ruling, it, like any defendant in default, “may ask the district court to vacate that judgment,” the appeals court said.

The case is Kim v. Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, 13-7147, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (Washington)

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