27-11-2021 07:30 AM Jerusalem Timing

Row over N. Korea Defectors Echoes in Seoul Court

Row over N. Korea Defectors Echoes in Seoul Court

A South Korean court hearing into a dozen North Korean defectors who Pyongyang insists were abducted, adjourned Tuesday with a motion to replace the judge after he declined to compel the 12 women to appear.

South Korea - North KoreaA South Korean court hearing into a dozen North Korean defectors who Pyongyang insists were abducted, adjourned Tuesday with a motion to replace the judge after he declined to compel the 12 women to appear.

The closed-door hearing pitted officials from South Korea's spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, (NIS) against a group of human rights lawyers who contend the defectors are being illegally detained.

All 12 were waitresses at a North Korean-run restaurant in China who arrived in the South in April with their manager, making headlines as the largest group defection in years.

While Seoul says they fled to the South voluntarily, Pyongyang claims they were kidnapped by NIS agents and has waged a campaign through its state media for their immediate return.

A liberal South Korean legal association called Lawyers for a Democratic Society had instigated the court proceedings in an effort to have the sequestered defectors produced to answer questions.

But the NIS claimed the women were unwilling to testify and refused to bring them to court, saying they were being held incommunicado for their own protection and that of their families still in North Korea.