At the L.A. Times, John M. Glionna discusses litigation against North Korea and the efforts of the plaintiffs’ attorneys to find, fix, and seize North Korean assets. Here’s a teaser:
“Nobody pays attention unless these nations are held accountable,” said Han Kim, the son of the Chicago minister abducted by North Korea.
Meanwhile, plaintiffs’ lawyers continue their hunt for North Korean assets. “I don’t know whether we’ll ever be successful. That’s the sad part,” said Streeter. He said he charged each of four plaintiffs a $5,000 retainer but will receive no more until a judgment is collected. “But I want to see some of that money that Kim Jong Il is using to buy his yachts and his Courvoisier as payment to my clients,” he said. “I’ll take it in Courvoisier. I don’t care.”
Glionna’s quotes of the lawyers are interesting reading, though legally and substantively, there isn’t much there that you haven’t read right here, at this humble blog. In fact, several weeks ago, after Glionna read the page, he contacted me with a few questions about how the law has evolved in this area. I also put him in touch with Richard Streeter and told him how to find Robert Tolchin (at the bottom of his pleadings, published on my page). It’s all just another day in the life of an pajama-clad blogger rearranging and serving table scraps from the dead tree media.
It bears repeating that these lawyers are trying to collect tort judgments on behalf of American victims of terrorism and torture, something that’s completely consistent with what Congress intended when it amended the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act after 9/11. Yet their primary opponent hasn’t been North Korea, which failed to offer any defense to the suits, but our own State Department. I can understand the State Department arguing to maintain its prerogative over the conduct of foreign relations before Congress passes a law. What I can’t understand is State continuing to frustrate a statute after it is passed and signed by the President, after it has become the settled law of the land — just as it did with the North Korean Human Rights Act.
I don’t make any secret of the fact that I’m rooting for Streeter, Tolchin, and their clients. It’s fair to suppose that none of the assets they levy will have been earmarked to buy baby formula. Today, the total amount of the U.S. District Court judgments against North Korea is approaching $500 million. By some estimates, that’s the same amount North Korea was earning from its overseas weapons sales every year until recently.