About two months after fleeing their oppressive homeland, 12 former workers of a North Korean restaurant in China face a legal debate over the legitimacy of their stay in South Korea under Seoul’s protection.
The Seoul Central District Court opened a hearing to review a request by the Lawyers for a Democratic Society, better known as Minbyun, to determine whether the 12 had defected on their own free will and thus whether the government’s current holding of them is lawful.
The Unification Ministry’s unprecedented announcement of the defection, made just days ahead of the April 13 general election, stoked rumors that the National Intelligence Service had orchestrated the escape with a political intention.
Controversy is simmering as the court issued a summons to the 12 defectors, fueling concerns over their safety and that of their family members left behind in the North.
In another development, the NIS has decided to have the group remain in their current residence instead of sending them to Hanawon resettlement center, citing the special nature of their situation including Pyongyang’s ongoing propaganda offensive against them.
[The Korea Herald]