By Chung Min-uck
A civic group, consisting of family members of South Koreans abducted to North Korea during the Korean War (1950-53), said Monday it will take North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for unlawful detention of the abductees and failure to address related abuses.
The Korean War Abductees Family Association (KWAFA) said it will file the suit against Kim and other high-ranking North Korean officials ― including Armed Forces Minister Jang Jong-nam, State Security Minister Kim Won-hong and Choi Bu-il, minister of people's security.
It will file the legal motion, along with supporting evidence, with the ICC in Hague, Netherlands, on Wednesday.
"The North has systematically denied and tried to hide the abduction of civilians in the past, even though it is aware of its criminal deeds," the KWAFA said.
The motion marks the first time that a North Korean leader and senior leadership are being taken to court over the kidnapping of people during the three-year war.
Hanbyun, a group of lawyers advocating the unification of the Korean Peninsula and human rights, will represent families of abducted people at the ICC.
Opinions are divided over whether Kim and his leadership can legally be charged in such an international court.
Those who are skeptical claim the motion will fail because North Korea is not a member of the Hague court. The ICC's judicial power is effective only to its member states.
However, proponents say the move could bear fruit because South Korea is a member of the ICC, which satisfies the conditions for the filing of such an international lawsuit. Plus, at the Hague Court, there is no statute of limitations.
"North Korea was and is denying problems surrounding the abductees, calling it a political plot," said Lee Mi-il, chief of the civic group. "We have been trying to the raise the awareness of the issue on the international stage and filing the lawsuit is part of the move."
Prompted by the calls, members of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry (COI) on North Korean human rights are investigating human rights conditions in the reclusive country. It will submit a final report to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2014.
According to human rights groups, abductees endured harsh punishment in the North, including hard labor in political prison camps.