Historical ‘Paradise on Earth’ Campaign a Rights Disaster
(Tokyo) – Japan should publicly urge the North Korean government to immediately allow ethnic Koreans lured to North Korea from Japan and their relatives to return to Japan, Human Rights Watch said today. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should follow up this demand with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, in any possible future summit.
Five victims of the “Paradise on Earth” campaign, which recruited Koreans in Japan to North Korea on false promises, sued the North Korean government for damages on August 19, 2018. At a news conference at the Tokyo District Court, the victims and their lawyers said North Korea should let the program’s victims and their relatives depart the country.
“The Paradise on Earth victims believed the propaganda, but what they encountered in North Korea was hell, not paradise,” said Kanae Doi, Japan director. “The Japanese government should face its role in facilitating this historical wrong, recognize that the victims are still suffering, and set the situation right by supporting these victims’ demands.”
Between 1959 and 1984, approximately 93,000 ethnic Koreans (Zainichi) and Japanese migrated from Japan to North Korea under the program’s auspices. The North Korean government, mostly through the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon), a pro-Pyongyang organization, propagandized that North Korea was a “Paradise on Earth,” and “anything needed for life including housing, food, clothes are fully guaranteed.”
The governments of both North Korea and Japan (through a cabinet resolution) endorsed the program at the highest levels. But given the absence of diplomatic relations between the two, it was largely carried out by Chongryon, with support from the Japanese and North Korean Red Cross Societies and facilitation by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs demand damages from the North Korean government for luring ethnic Koreans in Japan on false premises. The plaintiffs maintain that North Korea intended to attract ethnic Koreans, especially skilled workers and technicians, to meet its labor shortage. While victims quickly realized that North Korean promises were false, often even when they first arrived at the port of entry, the authorities never allowed them to return to Japan. ......