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People's Daily Online

Colleagues, families of 13 reported 'defectors' urge Seoul to return DPRK nationals

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 15:18, May 03, 2016

PYONGYANG, May 3 -- Families and colleagues of the 13 nationals of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) who were reported to have defected to Seoul said here Tuesday that the alleged "group defection" was in fact "kidnapping."

Speaking at a press conference, they urged Seoul to immediately return the DPRK citizens.

On April 8, South Korea's Unification Ministry said a group of 13 DPRK nationals working in an overseas restaurant, including 12 waitresses and one manager, defected to South Korea.

South Korean media said this marked the first time that a group of DPRK citizens working at the same overseas restaurant defected to South Korea.

However, seven colleagues of those waitresses told the press that they were all tricked by the manager who had been bribed by officials with South Korea's National Intelligence Service and that 12 of them were lured and abducted to Seoul before finding out they were fooled.

The manager told them in mid-March that they would open a new restaurant in Malaysia and asked them to get ready so that they could leave at any time, said the maitre d'hotel.

At noon of April 5, the manager told them to get on a bus where she found the manager met with a suspicious South Korean contact, the maitre d'hotel said. So she persuaded her colleagues not to follow the manager. Still, some were kidnapped and sent to Seoul and the rest of them returned to the DPRK, according to her.

But the South Korean side said the seven waitresses were returned to the DPRK after their attempt to defect to South Korea failed.

South Korean media also reported that the 12 waitresses and one manager chose to defect to the South because they were pressured to turn in revenues to the DPRK.

Last month, the DPRK Red Cross Society said it would send the families of the "kidnapped" waitresses to Seoul via the truce village of Panmunjom, to let them meet with their children. But Seoul refused the request.

The families of the "kidnapped" waitresses said at Tuesday's press conference that they are desperate to reunite with their children and the South Korean government should not dismiss their reasonable request to meet with their children in Seoul. Otherwise, it would pay a harsh price, they warned.

Asked what message they would like to deliver to their colleagues now in Seoul, the waitresses said they are waiting for their early return and hoped they could keep fighting in Seoul until finally being sent back.

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