3 defectors slapped with suit filed by Kim’s aunt

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3 defectors slapped with suit filed by Kim’s aunt

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Ko Yong-suk

The aunt of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un filed a defamation suit Wednesday against three North Korean defectors for spreading information on television about her and her husband she claims was false, according to her legal representative in Seoul.

Ko Yong-suk, the younger sister of Kim’s mother Ko Yong-hui, who died in 2004 from breast cancer at age 51, and her husband Ri Gang have retained legal counsel from local law firm Nextlaw to represent her defamation case against the three defectors for making remarks Ko and her husband deem fabricated.

According to Ko’s legal representative Kang Yong-seok, the pair has accused the three defectors of falsely stating that the couple flew to the United States after years of managing Kim Jong-il’s secret funds overseas and had since been in hiding there.

The couple also alleged that the defendants falsely claimed that Ko’s father was a Japanese collaborator during the 1910-45 colonial period and that he had settled in Japan when he was 6 years old.

The three defendants in the case are a former North Korean security agent, the son-in-law of a former North Korean prime minister and an ex-diplomat.

The plaintiff is seeking 60 million won ($51,540) in compensation from the defendants, 20 million won from each.

“I received an email from Ri Gang about a month ago requesting to arrange a meeting for legal services on Monday, which we did,” Kang told the Korea JoongAng Daily.

Ri flew to Seoul to make the appointment Monday.

Kang said he checked Ri’s American passport and the locations of the couple’s residence in the United States, which he declined to disclose.

Kim’s aunt was known to have served as caregiver for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his younger sister Kim Yo-jong while they attended boarding school in Switzerland before she and her husband sought asylum in the United States in 1998.

Kim Jong-un attended the prestigious International School of Berne from 1996 to 2001 under a pseudonym.

The couple’s decision to flee Pyongyang is said to have been motivated by their fear that their deep knowledge of internal affairs among would eventually put them at risk.

Ko and Ri sought asylum at the U.S. Embassy in Switzerland in 1998, and U.S. authorities spirited them away without informing South Korean authorities. They were sent to the United States via a base in Frankfurt, Germany, a source told the JoongAng Ilbo in 2013.

According to multiple former intelligence agents and sources in a JoongAng Ilbo interview in 2013, Ko and Ri are receiving protection from U.S. authorities and underwent cosmetic surgery to conceal their identities. Once settling in America, Ko and her husband faced in-depth questioning by U.S. authorities, who extracted a trove of information about North Korea’s ruling dynasty.

It was reported that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency became aware of secret funds raised by former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, worth $4 billion, based on information extracted from the couple, and moved to freeze those assets, which were invested in foreign stock markets.

It remains to be seen whether Ri will visit Seoul for court proceedings. When asked, Kang said the option remained open.

For a civil case, court proceedings can continue with the absence of a plaintiff when the plaintiff is represented by legal counsel. A foreign national can also raise a legal suit regarding illegal acts. Kang, a former ruling party lawmaker, is known for publicizing the legal cases he represents. Kang said most of his clients come to his office knowing their cases will attract media attention.

BY KANG JIN-KYU[kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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