The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

Volokh Conspiracy

North Korea loses in D.C. Circuit


Talk about fortuitous timing. On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit decided Kim v. Democratic People's Republic of Korea, in which the court concluded that the plaintiffs could take advantage of the "terrorism exception" to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) in their suit against DPK, a.k.a North Korea. Here's the intro to the opinion:

Relying on the "terrorism exception" to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, the family of Reverend Dong Shik Kim sued the North Korean government alleging that it abducted him, confined him to a kwan-li-so-a political penal-labor colony-tortured him, and, ultimately, killed him. When North Korea failed to appear, the Kims asked the district court for a default judgment pursuant to the provision of the Act that authorizes a court to enter judgment if the plaintiff "establishes his claim or right to relief by evidence that is satisfactory to the Court." The district court denied that motion because the Kims had failed to produce "first-hand evidence" of what happened to the Reverend. We reverse. Admissible record evidence demonstrates that North Korea abducted Reverend Kim, that it invariably tortures and kills political prisoners, and that through terror and intimidation it prevents any information about those crimes from escaping to the outside world. Requiring a plaintiff to produce direct, firsthand evidence of the victim's torture and murder would thus thwart the purpose of the terrorism exception: holding state sponsors of terrorism accountable for torture and extrajudicial killing. In these circumstances, we find the Kims' evidence sufficiently "satisfactory" to require a default judgment.