Japanese court summons N Korea leader

A Japanese court has summoned North Korea's leader to face demands for compensation by several ethnic Korean residents of Japan who say they suffered human rights abuses after joining a resettlement program in North Korea that described the country as a "paradise on earth," a lawyer and plaintiff say.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is not expected to appear in court for the October 14 hearing but the judge's decision to summon him is a rare instance in which a foreign leader was not granted sovereign immunity, said Kenji Fukuda, a lawyer representing the five plaintiffs.

They are demanding 100 million yen ($A1.2 million) each in compensation from North Korea for human rights violations they say they suffered under the resettlement program.

About 93,000 ethnic Korean residents of Japan and their family members went to North Korea decades ago because of promises of a better life.

Many had faced discrimination in Japan as ethnic Koreans.

Eiko Kawasaki, 79, a Korean who was born and raised in Japan, was 17 when she left Japan in 1960, a year after North Korea began the massive repatriation program to make up for workers killed in the Korean War and bring overseas Koreans back home.

The program continued to seek recruits, many of them originally from South Korea, until 1984.

The Japanese government also welcomed the program, viewing Koreans as outsiders, and helped arrange their transport to North Korea.

Kawasaki said she was confined to North Korea for 43 years until she was able to defect in 2003, leaving behind her grown children.

North Korea had promised free healthcare, education, jobs and other benefits, she said, but none of them were available and they were mostly assigned manual work at mines, forests or farms.