A group of North Korean waitresses who “defected” to Seoul in 2016 were actually abducted by the South, a fact-finding team of international lawyers has concluded after a visit to Pyongyang.
The case has long been controversial, with Pyongyang saying the 12 women were kidnapped from a North Korean state-run restaurant in China while Seoul insists they defected of their own free will.
During their six-day stay in the North Korean capital, the lawyers said they spoke to seven former waitresses who claimed they managed to escape while their colleagues were tricked into coming to Seoul.
The seven North Korean women said they were able to escape -- and eventually return to the North -- only because their team leader overheard a conversation between the restaurant’s manager and a representative of the South Korean intelligence service, who had come to take them to the airport.
While they escaped, the 12 other waitresses had already left without knowing they were being taken to South Korea, the joint fact-finding committee of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers said in a statement.
The 12 women were “taken away by deception ... against their will, separated from their families and country”, it said after taking evidence from their seven colleagues.