Israel Law Center nets $330 million for family of pastor abducted by North Korea

Gabe Friedman

NEW YORK (JTA) — Lawyers for the Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center helped win $330 million for the family of a South Korean minister believed to have been killed by North Korea’s intelligence service.

The Tel Aviv-based nonprofit that seeks justice for victims of terrorist regimes represented Rev. Kim Dong-Shik against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the case, which had started in 2009.

North Korea is not expected to pay the damages, but lawyers will seek the confiscation of North Korean assets such as bank accounts and company shares.

In 2000, the then-53-year-old Kim, a Christian missionary who has family in Illinois and was a permanent U.S. resident, was abducted by North Korean intelligence agents in northeastern China for helping North Koreans escape their oppressive government regime.

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The case had stalled for a few years in federal court since Kim was never seen after his abduction and his family could not obtain concrete evidence about his fate.

“The court decision marks the first time that an American court has concluded that a foreign regime which abducts an individual who is then never heard from again has the burden of proving that he has not been murdered,” Shurat HaDin said in a news release on Monday.

Kim’s family was represented by Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the founder of Shurat HaDin. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia awarded Kim’s son and brother $1 million each for every one of the 15 years Rev. Kim was missing. $300 million was awarded in punitive damages.