Int’l lawyers claim 2016 N.Korean defectors were deceived, abducted to South

SEOUL-- A team of international lawyers has concluded that a dozen North Korean restaurant workers in China were "deceived and abducted" by their manager to South Korea three years ago.

The lawyers on Wednesday released the results of their recent probe in both South and North Korea into the high-profile defection case.

Twelve female workers of the Ryukyung Restaurant, a North Korean establishment in Ningbo, China, and their male manager, Heo Kang-il, arrived in South Korea in April 2016. Critics claimed South Korea's spy agency might have pulled the strings behind the rare group defection made known five days ahead of general elections.

The investigation team, consisting of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and the Confederation of Lawyers of Asia and the Pacific, said the women were cheated and kidnapped by Heo when they defected to the South Korean mission in Malaysia.

They were separated from their family against their will and their human rights were seriously violated, the group said in the release.

The lawyers conducted the investigation in both Koreas. They attempted to interview the defectors, but the Seoul government did not permit it, they said. In North Korea, they met the defectors' families, former co-workers and government officials during their visit this week.

The lawyers plan to report the results to the U.N. Human Rights Council by the end of this month.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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