By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

TOKYO, JapanRoughly 16 years after North Korea openly admitted to kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s, families of the victims hope to bring an International Criminal Court (ICC) case against Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea.

Kim Jong Un waves to onlookers at a military parade on April 15, 2017. Photo courtesy of Damir Sagolj, Reuters.

While Pyongyang says only 13 Japanese citizens were kidnapped, Tokyo officially reports 17 abductees. The U.N. believes the number is closer to 100. Moreover, the Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea quotes 470 disappearances related to North Korean kidnappings.

During negotiations in 2002 about the kidnappings, North Korea returned 5 Japanese citizens. They reported that the rest had died. However, Japan believed that the information provided to confirm the deaths was insufficient and suspicious.

Eight Japanese citizens will travel to the ICC in The Hague. Several members of this party had families members taken.  They believe that their family members are still alive and are severely repressed.

Their goal is to petition the ICC to open a case against Kim Jong Un for crimes against humanity. The charge is for not providing adequate information regarding the deaths of the kidnapped Japanese. The petition calls for an investigation of more than 100 kidnappings. Yet, these events happened under Kim Jong Un’s father and grandfather.

The representatives hope this decision (and ensuing criminal case) will bring an international focus to the kidnappings.   

For more information, please see:

Straits Times – Families of missing Japanese to urge prosecution of North Korea leader Kim Jong Un at Hague court – 19 January 2018

The Japan Times – Abductees’ kin will urge ICC to prosecute Kim for human rights abuses – 19 January 2018

Newsweek – WILL KIM JONG UN GO TO JAIL? RELATIVES OF JAPAN KIDNAPPING VICTIMS ASK COURT FOR JUSTICE – 19 January 2018

Author: Katherine Hewitt

Katherine Hewitt is a first year Masters of Arts in International Affairs candidate in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. She is pursuing a concentration in Peace, Security, and Conflict. Her interests lie in ethnic conflicts, particularly in the Post-Soviet Sphere. She expects to graduate in December 2018.