SEOUL, South Korea — When Kim Dong-shik, a South Korean pastor with permanent resident status in the United States, was abducted 15 years ago in northeastern China, his friends and family suspected North Korean involvement. The Pyongyang regime loathed clergymen like Mr. Kim, who worked and proselytized among North Koreans who had fled to China.
But Mr. Kim’s family had no evidence to point to — until 2005, when a Chinese man went on trial in Seoul. That man confessed to, and was convicted of, helping to abduct Mr. Kim and at least 17 other people from China on behalf of North Korea’s secret police, the Ministry of State Security.
Last week, armed in part with that evidence, Mr. Kim’s son and brother, both American citizens, won a $330 million judgment against the North Korean government in a United States court for the pastor’s abduction and “presumed” torture and killing.
North Korea, which has never admitted kidnapping Mr. Kim and refused to respond to the family’s litigation, is highly unlikely to pay the damages ordered on April 9 by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. But lawyers are conducting a global search for North Korean assets, like bank accounts, real estate and shares in companies, for possible confiscation, according to Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, an attorney for the Kims and founder of Shurat HaDin, a civil rights group based in Tel Aviv that has often sued sovereign states and militant groups on behalf of terrorism and torture victims.