The Korea Herald


S. Korea court allows family of slain official to continue damage suit against N. Korea

By Lee Jaeeun

Published : June 9, 2024 - 14:12

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(Herald DB) (Herald DB)

A South Korean court has allowed the family of a South Korean fisheries official, killed by North Korea in 2020, to continue their damage suit against North Korea through service by public notice, which enables the plaintiffs to serve legal documents through public circulation.

The Seoul Central District Court’s Appellate Division recently issued a retrial order to the Seoul Central District Court. This retrial concerns a 200 million won ($150,000) damages suit initiated in April 2022 by the bereaved family members of Lee Dae-jun, the late South Korean fisheries official.

In the first trial in February 2024, the Seoul district court said the plaintiffs did not write down the detailed address of the defendant, even though they could have. The plaintiffs wrote the address of the defendant North Korea as “the Building of the Korean Workers' Party's Central Committee” and requested the “service by public notice.”

However, the district court’s appellate division recently said it has decided to return the case to the district court because “the suit meets the requirements of public notice.”

When the defendant's address is unknown, the court may allow service by public notice if no other means of contact are available. This legal procedure assumes that a defendant has been served the necessary legal documents, allowing the court to consider a ruling as delivered, even if the defendant intentionally avoids responding or provides an invalid address.

The district court’s appellate division said, “Because the address of the office or the address of the representative, Kim Jong-un, are unknown, the requirements for service by public notice are met.”

The appellate division pointed out, “According to the South Korean Civil Procedure Act, North Korea is an anti-government organization and an ‘unincorporated association.’ Therefore, despite the plaintiffs’ efforts, the address could not have been found.”

Lee Dae-joon, the late official at the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries official, went missing in the early morning hours of Sept. 21, 2020, near Yeonpyeong Island in the West Sea. He was found dead the next day. The North Korean military had shot him and incinerated his body.