Twelve waitresses, who worked at a North Korean restaurant in Ningbo City, China, made headlines for defecting to North Korea. These women were secretly chosen by Kim Jong-un’s leadership to work abroad to earn money for their government.
Pyongyang maintained the women were abducted by South Korea.
However, South Korea said the North Korean women employees entered South Korea of their own free will in 2016.
But, now their manager has revealed that the women were in fact tricked by him into South.
Heo Gang-il said he lied to the women who were clueless about their final destination and brought them to Seoul. He was doing all of this on the orders of Seoul intelligence officers.
The restaurant manager was appointed by Seoul’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) in China in 2014.
Heo revealed he tried defecting himself but the intelligence threatened they would report about him working as a spy to North Korea if he didn’t bring his staff along. “Their attitude changed suddenly, telling me if I don't bring the workers with me, they will report me to the North Korean embassy and have me killed,” he told CNN.
Heo added the waitresses did not even know where they were being taken. The manager told them they were relocating. Only after arriving outside the South Korean embassy in Malaysia did they know about their final destination. Their tickets were paid for by the NIS.
At that time, the women hesitated to enter the building. "When the girls saw the South Korean flag they started panicking. I told them... we've gone too far already so couldn't go back," he recalled.
“Manager Heo threatened us, saying he will tell security authorities that we watched South Korean TV dramas and we would be executed, or exiled into provinces and our families would also be affected,” said one of the women, explaining how their manager threatened them.
Heo explained he was now revealing the truth because Seoul promised him rewards but they never materialized.
"The only thing we want is a thorough investigation into this. We were truly tricked, we are the victims here, I lost everything because of this. I really miss my parents and I'm very sorry for causing harm to people in North Korea," he said.
The NIS did not respond to a request for comment. Seoul's unification ministry, which looks after the relations with the North, said it was looking into the conditions of the women's arrival in Seoul more closely.
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