Restaurant workers defect
North Koreans in China head for the South
An unspecified number of North Koreans working at a Pyongyang-run restaurant overseas have escaped their workplace and will travel to South Korea, South Korean officials said.
The announcement by Seoul’s Unification Ministry came after South Korean media reported that two or three female employees at a North Korean-run restaurant in China fled and went to an unidentified Southeast Asian country earlier this month.
It’s the second known group escape by North Korean restaurant workers dispatched abroad in recent weeks. In April, a group of 13 North Koreans who had worked at a North Korean-run restaurant in the eastern Chinese city of Ningbo defected to South Korea.
The latest escapes will likely enrage Pyongyang, which typically accuses Seoul of trying to abduct or entice North Korean citizens to defect. South Korea has denied the accusation. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that the latest defectors had worked at a restaurant in the central Chinese city of Xian and that they may have travelled to Thailand.
South Korea’s spy service said earlier this year that North Korea was running about 130 restaurants overseas, mostly in China. Overall, North Korea has about 50,000 to 60,000 workers abroad.