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US District Court Sends Summonses to N. Korean Foreign Minister

A U.S. District Court has sent summonses to the Foreign Minister of North Korea to appear in court on two civil lawsuits filed against North Korea. The cases stem from the alleged abduction of a missionary who was aiding N. Korean defectors in China and alleged North Korean weapons sales to Hezbollah.

VOA has learned that the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia sent two summonses in January to Ui-Chun Park, the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of North Korea in Pyongyang.

According to court documents recently obtained by the VOA Korean Service, the court mailed one summons, complaint and notice of suit, together with translations of each into Korean, in connection with a case involving Reverend Dong Shik Kim, who is believed to have been kidnapped by North Korea and died in North Korean custody.

That suit filed on April 8 2009, Han Kim, the son of Rev. Kim Dong Shik, and Yong Seok Kim, the younger brother of Rev. Kim charges that Rev. Kim Dong Shik, who was working in China as a missionary to provide humanitarian aid to North Korean defectors and refugees there, was abducted to North Korea on January 16 of 2000. In North Korea, he was allegedly put into hard labor in a camp and died of torture and starvation.

Another summons and lawsuit mailed to Park on January 21 was filed by 30 Americans residing in Israel who allegedly suffered injuries from rocket attacks launched by Hezbollah between July 12 and August 14, 2006. They allege that North Korea provided Hezbollah with "material support and resources" that caused the attacks.

In an interview with VOA, Robert Tolchin, the lead attorney in both cases, said that the summons for each case was issued when the complaint was filed. However, it took longer for the summonses to be mailed. "Because we're dealing with a foreign country, and it takes a lot longer to get the summons to the proper people in the foreign country," he said.

Tolchin said the plaintiffs are seeking compensatory damages in an amount for no less than $100 million, punitive damages, any and all costs sustained in connection with the prosecution of this action, including attorneys' fees.

North Korea has had no response to the summonses.

Tolchin says that he is waiting for the North to react to the order of the court. "You have to wait until the time for the defendant to answer expires, and then you can ask the court for default judgment," he said.

If Ui-Chun Park does not take any action in response to the summonses, Tolchin says, he will seek for default judgment. "Once we get the default judgment, then we'll have a hearing on damages, and a judgment will ultimately be answered, and we'll try to collect the judgment to get any North Korean assets that we may find anywhere in the world," he said.

An official at the North Korean Mission to the United Nations in New York, who spoke on the condition he not be identified, told the VOA Korean Service that the mission is not aware of the summonses mailed to Ui-Chun Park, and that Pyongyang has not ordered diplomats in New York to do anything regarding the two cases.