Waitresses who allegedly fled North Korean restaurant at center of international dispute

A defector who lives in South Korea at an anti-North Korea rally on November 23, 2015 in Seoul. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

A group of 12 waitresses and a restaurant manager are at the center of a dispute between North Korea and South Korea over whether the women defected or are being held hostage. South Korea’s intelligence agency is detaining and questioning the workers, all of whom worked at a North Korea-run restaurant in China. The South Korean government said that they arrived in Seoul, South Korea, in April as defectors, but the North Korean government claims that they were abducted by the South Korean government.

A South Korean official told The Guardian that the intelligence agency decided to continue detaining and questioning the women because the North is carrying out a “propaganda campaign” over the group’s status. A South Korean court ruled that it would delay a request from the law group Lawyers for a Democratic Society asking to have a hearing to question the women about why they were in South Korea.

According to The Guardian, more than 1,000 people from North Korea who defect to South Korea each year arrive at a facility on the outskirts of Seoul where the waitresses and manager arrived. They can be screened and questioned for up to 180 days there about their lives in the North. After the women are released from the facility they will spend 12 weeks at a resettlement complex learning about life in the South, according to the report.

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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