North Korea Demands Meetings with Defectors

Michael Song, April 21, 2016, 8:02 a.m.

North Korea, which from the outset accused Seoul of manipulating the flight of a group of North Korean restaurant workers, demanded on Thursday a face-to-face meeting between the defectors and their families to "clarify" their stance. The group of 13 North Koreans -- 12 female waitresses and one male manager -- defected from the same North Korea-run restaurant in China to South Korea in early April.

North Korea has since claimed they were abducted by South Korea, demanding they be returned immediately. "The families who have had their beloved daughters abducted in broad daylight are earnestly asking for direct contact with them as early as possible," North Korea's Red Cross said in a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

North Korea would send the defectors' parents to the border or to Seoul if they are given the chance to meet them in person, the statement said. "What we want is to let the daughters meet their parents to directly clarify their position," but if South Korea refuses the demand or their return, North Korea will launch "strong retaliatory action" against Cheong Wa Dae, according to the statement. The Cheong Wa Dae is South Korea's presidential office.

"If the puppet group (South Korea) neither responds to the demand for direct contact with parents nor sends back the citizens of the DPRK (North Korea) ... we will launch strong retaliatory action with various methods against the group of traitors including Cheong Wa Dae," it said.

An official from South Korea's Unification Ministry dismissed the accusation and demand as "unworthy of any comment."  "The 13 North Korean restaurant workers left the North and came here of their own will and North Korea's abduction accusation is far from fact," the official said.


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