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North Korea airs footage of defectors' pleading families

The parents stated they would be willing to travel to Seoul to meet with their children.

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea airs footage of defectors' pleading families
A North Korean woman and hostess stand outside a North Korean restaurant waiting for customers in Dandong, China's largest border city with North Korea. North Korea has not stopped calling for a meeting between the young women who fled a state-run restaurant in Ningbo, China, and their families. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, April 27 (UPI) -- North Korea state media released footage of people identified as the families of the young defectors who fled from a state-run restaurant in China.

The videos aired on Wednesday and again on Thursday, local time, on Arirang Communications, a North Korean news channel, South Korea's Newsis reported.

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In the televised interviews, the families asked to meet with their daughters who once worked as waitresses and performed musical numbers at a North Korean restaurant in Ningbo, China.

The interviewees identified themselves as the parents of three of the women: Jon Ok Hyang, Ri Bom, and So Kyong Ah.

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A total of 12 women escaped from the restaurant.

The parents stated they would be willing to travel to Seoul to meet with their children.

North Korea has claimed the defectors had been "dragged" against their will to the South, and that they were "kidnapped" by South Korean intelligence agents.

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Family members in the aired TV segment said they were skeptical their daughters would willingly travel to the South, where "they don't have even one relative."

"How could they stay there?" asked the family of one of the defectors identified as Ok Hyang.

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The families said Seoul should accept their request, if the South Korean government respected the "free will" of the defectors.

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More information on the defection came Wednesday from the South's intelligence chief, News 1 reported.

Lee Byung-ho told South Korean lawmakers that a total of 20 people were planning to defect from the Ningbo restaurant.

But at the last minute seven of the 20 decided to stay, out of concern for their families' safety.

According to ruling party politician Lee Cheol-uoo and the opposition's Shin Kyeong-min who attended the closed meeting, Seoul's spy chief said the defectors all left voluntarily with legal passports, and dismissed the North's claims of abduction.

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