Nov. 9 (UPI) -- The United Nations should investigate the historical repatriation of tens of thousands of ethnic Koreans from Japan for rights violations, a South Korea-based advocacy group says.
Citizens' Alliance for North Korean Human Rights, or NKHR, said Monday at a press conference the North Korean government should be held accountable, and the project's enablers, the former Soviet Union, the Japanese Red Cross, the International Red Cross and the Japanese government, should also undergo investigation, Yonhap reported.
"Until now, the repatriation project was known as a humanitarian repatriation project, involving Koreans in Japan who went to North Korea by their own free will," the group said. "However, the reality was that it was systematically planned and promoted by the North Korean government."
The repatriation of more than 90,000 Koreans in Japan from 1959 to 1984 often involved the recruitment of ethnic Koreans by the pro-Pyongyang organization Chongryon. The ethnic or "Zainichi" Koreans, who were in Japan after the 1950-53 Korean War, were pressured to pick a side, and most "supported" North Korea. Those who were "repatriated" were usually misinformed about conditions in North Korea, where they were the targets of discrimination, according to a former defector now based in Japan.
NKHR said Monday Chongryon was "under the direction of the North Korean government and intelligence agencies" and was responsible for carrying out "large-scale propaganda campaigns." Chongryon acted as the intelligence arm of the Kim Il Sung regime, the group said.
The activists said Japanese entities, Tokyo and Moscow should also come under probe for their decision to authorize the repatriation. Markus Bell, a North Korea expert and migration researcher based in Yangon, Myanmar, has previously told UPI the Japanese government may have been "the first to initiate the idea" of "returning" ethnic Koreans to the North.
Expectations are rising in South Korea the issue of North Korea human rights will be given greater attention following the election of Joe Biden to the U.S. presidency.
News 1 reported Monday that Park Jin, a veteran lawmaker and foreign policy expert with the main opposition People Power Party, said Biden "values human rights" and would "surely raise the North Korean human rights issue" during his presidency.
In 2019, the Trump administration blocked a U.N. Security Council meeting on North Korea human rights.