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Kim v. Democratic People's Republic of Korea

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

April 9, 2015

HAN KIM, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC of KOREA, et al., Defendants

Page 287

For HAN KIM, YONG SEOK KIM, Plaintiffs: Robert Joseph Tolchin, LEAD ATTORNEY, THE BERKMAN LAW OFFICE, LLC, Brooklyn, NY; Meir Katz, PRO HAC VICE, Globa Frontier Justice Center, Baltimore, MD.

Page 288

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RICHARD W. ROBERTS, Chief United States District Judge.

Plaintiffs Han Kim and Yong Seok Kim (" the Kims" ) brought suit against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (" North Korea" ) alleging claims under the terrorism exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (" FSIA" ), and North Korea failed to respond. The Kims' motion for entry of default judgment was denied, though, for lack of sufficient evidence pled and produced to vest in the court subject matter jurisdiction. As the D.C. Circuit has reversed, default judgment will be entered in favor of the Kims and damages will be awarded.

BACKGROUND

The facts of this case are detailed in Kim, et al. v. Democratic People's Republic of Korea, 950 F.Supp.2d 29, 35-41 (D.D.C. 2013). Briefly, Han Kim, the son of Reverend Kim Dong Shik (" Reverend Kim" ), and Yong Seok Kim, Reverend Kim's brother, brought this suit against North Korea in connection with Reverend Kim's abduction, and presumed torture and killing. Id. at 30. Reverend Kim was a missionary in China " providing humanitarian and religious services to the families of North Korean defectors and refugees who had fled across the Sino--Korean border seeking asylum." Id. at 36. Reverend Kim was abducted from China by North Korean agents, and presumably imprisoned, tortured, and killed for his humanitarian efforts. Id. at 38-39.

When the Kims moved for default judgment, after North Korea failed to respond to the complaint, this Court found that subject matter jurisdiction was lacking because the Kims did not sufficiently meet the standard for pleading and proving that Reverend Kim was tortured, as is required by the FSIA's terrorism exception. Id. at 43. The case was dismissed and the Kims appealed.

On appeal, the D.C. Circuit reversed and ordered that default judgment be entered in favor of the Kims. Kim, et al. v. Democratic People's Republic of Korea, 774 F.3d 1044, 1051 (D.C. Cir. 2014); see also Mandate of U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, ECF No. 68. The D.C. Circuit held that evidence that North Korea was involved in the abduction of Reverend Kim coupled with expert testimony presented by the Kims about the treatment of North Korea's political prisoners is sufficient to meet the standard for subject matter jurisdiction under the FSIA's terrorism exception. Kim, 774 F.3d 1050-1051. The Kims, then, will be awarded default judgment and damages will be assessed.

DISCUSSION

Actions under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act usually proceed in three parts: (1) a finding as to the district court's jurisdiction, (2) a finding as to the liability of the defendant foreign sovereign, and (3) an assessment of damages against the defendant foreign sovereign. See, e.g., Roth, et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran, Civil Action No. 11-1377 (RCL), 78 F.Supp.3d 379, 2015 WL 349208 (D.D.C. Jan. 27, 2015) (resolving an action under the FSIA by evaluating the court's jurisdiction, then defendant's liability, and finally damages); Moradi, et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran, Civil Action No. 13-0599 (ESH), 77 F.Supp.3d 57, 2015 WL 56043 (D.D.C. Jan. 5, 2015) (same). Here, the D.C. Circuit resolved the jurisdictional question, and by doing so also resolved the question of liability against North Korea, because " liability under § 1605A(c) . . . exist[s] whenever the jurisdictional requirements of § 1605A(a)(1) are met." Moradi, 2015 WL 56043 at *9 (citing Kilburn v. Islamic Republic of Iran,

Page 289

699 F.Supp.2d 136, 155 (D.D.C. 2010); Gates v. Syrian Arab Republic,580 F.Supp.2d 53, 64-69 (D.D.C. 2008); and Murphy v. Islamic Republic of Iran,740 F.Supp.2d 51, 72 (D.D.C. 2010)). The only issue that remains is the proper assessment of damages. Under the FSIA, " damages may include economic damages, solatium, pain and suffering [collectively, ...


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