An aunt of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has filed a libel suit against three people who defected to South Korea, a lawyer for her family said Wednesday. Koh Young-sook, who herself defected to the U.S. decades ago, accused the defendants of lying about her having plastic surgery to hide after defecting and managing a secret fund, the BBC reported.
Koh is the North Korean leader’s aunt on his maternal side and reportedly took care of Kim when he was a teenager studying in Switzerland, her lawyer said. It was seen as unusual that a ruling family member living outside of North Korea would bring publicity to themselves. Koh is seeking a little less than $52,000.
"These defectors who often make appearances on TV are not in a position to know about her directly, and what they are saying is not true," Koh’s lawyer, Kang Yong-seok said, according to Reuters. "She and her husband find it very unpleasant."
The three defendants are a former North Korean agent, a son-in-law of the former North Korean prime minister and an ex-diplomat, Kang said, according to the Korea Times. The suit was filed in the Seoul Central District Court.
Defectors from North Korea typically keep a low profile after leaving the country. A series of high-profile defections raised controversy this year and prompted Kim to order a barbed-wire fence to be installed at parts of the border.
There have been some 28,000 defections to South Korea since the 1990s. Defection is considered a crime and can lead to severe punishment. In 2014, there were about 1,300 people who were reported to have left North Korea -- a drop from the more than 2,400 who left the previous year. The decline has been attributed to the country’s changing economic situation, as well as Kim’s heightened crackdown on defectors.
Human rights organizations have repeatedly criticized the North Korean government for its autocratic leadership and rampant human rights violations. It is considered to be among the most repressive countries in the world, a Human Rights Watch report said.