Seoul rejects Pyongyang’s abduction accusations

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Seoul rejects Pyongyang’s abduction accusations

Pyongyang’s claim that the South abducted three North Korean workers in China is “absurd,” and there is “no need to counter” such accusations, Seoul announced on Friday.

Jeong Joon-hee, a spokesman for the Ministry of Unification in Seoul, said in a firm tone that Pyongyang’s allegation is absolutely groundless.

“The North should stop repeating claims that the South lured North Koreans into defection when in fact, it was their own choice to freely make their way here,” the spokesman said.

He advised Pyongyang to “look back on its own deeds in self-reflection” so that it can raise the living standards of its people and improve human rights within its borders.

Seoul’s chastising came one day after Pyongyang claimed the South’s “puppet” intelligence agency had tricked and abducted three of its restaurant workers who had been stationed in Shanxi province, in a statement issued by an unnamed spokesperson of the North’s Red Cross. The North demanded immediate repatriation of the three defectors, which was outright rejected by the South.

The three defectors had escaped their workplace in China and moved to Thailand before boarding a plane bound for Seoul earlier this week. The defection was the second of its kind in less than two months.

In April, a group of 13 restaurant workers escaped from China’s eastern port city of Ningbo and made their way to Seoul on what the South said was an “unprecedented scale.”

The North made the same argument in response to the 13-member defection, claiming they had been duped and abducted by the National Intelligence Service, and demanded their repatriation.

It also demanded a meeting between the 13 defectors and their North Korean families at the border village of Panmunjom, which Seoul rebuffed.

The two recent defections by North Korean restaurant workers in China has led to speculation that the North has stepped up pressure on its overseas workers, who are subject to labor exploitation without due pay in order to increase the amount of hard currency they send to the cash-hungry regime in Pyongyang, in the wake of far-reaching financial sanctions imposed for its fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range missile launch in February.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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