Seoul: Employees of N. Korea-run overseas restaurant flee workplace

Seoul: Employees of N. Korea-run overseas restaurant flee workplace

PanARMENIAN.Net - An unspecified number of North Koreans working at a Pyongyang-run restaurant overseas have escaped their workplace and will come to South Korea, South Korean officials said Tuesday, May 24, according to the Associated Press.

The announcement by Seoul's Unification Ministry came after South Korean media reported that two or three female employees at a North Korea-run restaurant in China fled and went to an unidentified Southeast Asian country earlier this month.

It's the second known group escapes 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, AP says.

A brief Unification Ministry statement Tuesday confirmed that some more North Korean restaurant workers abroad fled, but didn't elaborate. Officials at the unification and foreign ministries refused to provide further details about the North Koreans and their escapes, citing concerns about their safety and potential diplomatic problems with concerned countries. It's unclear when they will arrive in Seoul.

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, mostly in Russia and China, with a mission to bring in foreign currency, according to the National Intelligence Service.

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