The North Korean propaganda website Uriminzokkiri on Tuesday alleged that three North Korean women who fled from China to South Korea were “abducted” by South Korea’s National Intelligence Service. The website also published the photos, identities and passport numbers of two South Koreans and a Korean-Chinese man it accuses of “luring and abducting” the women at the orders of the South Korean “National Intelligence Service” (NIS).
But Yoon Jae-hong, one of the men in the photos who helps North Korean defectors in China, denied the claims. “They were anything but kidnapped,” he told the Chosun Ilbo. “They were the ones who asked us to rescue them.The NIS has nothing to do with this.”
According to Yoon, two of the women worked in a restaurant in Shanghai for two years until late 2015. They were senior employees and had their own cell phones and were allowed to leave the restaurant freely. They became friends with two South Korean businessmen in Shanghai and exchanged phone numbers.
But the restaurant closed down late last year due to financial difficulties and the women were moved to another restaurant in Weinan, Shaanxi Province. From there they continued to exchange text messages with the two South Koreans in Shanghai.
Hearing of the defections of 13 North Korean women from another restaurant strengthened the resolve of the two women in Weinan to also [defect]. They contacted the two South Korean men to ask for their help in getting to South Korea. One of the South Koreans contacted Kim Yong-hwa of the North Korea Refugees Human Rights Association in Seoul to ask for help. Kim arranged for Yoon to help them.
“Originally, three restaurant workers intended to defect, but one changed her mind at the last minute,” Yoon said. “On April 15, they left the restaurant and got in a taxi to a prearranged spot, and from there they traveled for two days by bus to Yunnan Province.”
The women crossed the border into Laos and traveled to Thailand to board a flight to Seoul.