More than 50 years ago, North Korea captured the USS Pueblo and subjected the spy ship’s crew to “barbarity” for almost a year, treatment that “required medical and/or psychiatric intervention” for the men upon their release in December 1968.Today, crew members and their families face the challenge of finding North Korea’s assets so they can realize their shares of $2.3 billion judgment against Pyongyang handed down by a U.S. district court.In a memorandum opinion issued Feb. 16 but filed and made public Wednesday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia stated that “North Korea was liable” for “its incorporated theories of assault, battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, solatium, and wrongful death.”Memorandum opinion on USS Pueblo:FILE – Grainy, black-and-white photos of the captain and captured crew hang in the USS Pueblo in Pyongyang, North Korea, Jan. 24, 2018.VOA contacted the North Korean mission in New York for a response but left a voicemail message after being unable to talk with anyone.More than 100 crew members and their families filed a lawsuit against North Korea in February 2018 under the FILE – Released crewmen of the USS Pueblo are escorted by MPs upon their arrival at the U.S. Army 121st Evacuation Hospital at Ascom City, 10 miles west of Seoul, Dec. 23, 1968.Bravin said the distribution from the fund is subject to some conditions to prevent individual claimants from “monopolizing” the fund.“They don’t get more money after their $20 million is received until everybody else has gotten their money,” Bravin said. “Once somebody gets 30% of their money, [the distributions] are paused so that others can [get theirs].”Joshua Stanton, an attorney based in Washington, D.C., who helped draft the FILE – Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who has been detained in North Korea since early January, is taken to North Korea’s top court in Pyongyang, North Korea, March 16, 2016.The U.S. Marshals Service auctioned the Wise Honest in 2019 and, as is customary, did not release how much was realized.The Pueblo was seized by the North Korean navy in January 1968 while the U.S. ship was operating in international waters off the coast of North Korea. The Pueblo was engaged in an intelligence-gathering mission to intercept communications between Pyongyang and Moscow.After 11 months of suffering repeated beatings and torture, surviving crew members were released at the Demilitarized Zone dividing North and South Korea. The spy ship is moored along a river in Pyongang as part of North Korea’s Victorious War Museum.Aside from the damages awarded to the crew and their family members, Bravin said the return of the Pueblo would give them peace of mind.“One additional thing that could happen that would give peace of mind to the crew is if the United States and North Korea could find a way to get the Pueblo returned to the United States,” Bravin said. “It’s been an issue of concern for the crew forever.”Christy Lee contributed to this report, which originated on VOA Korea. 

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