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UN urges probe into N. Korea waitress 'defectors'

AFP  |  Seoul 

A dozen North Korean waitresses involved in a high-profile "defection" case two years ago did not know where they were going, the top UN on said today.

The issue has long been controversial, with saying the women were kidnapped from a North Korean state-run restaurant in while insists they defected of their own free will.

In a bombshell revelation in May, the of the 12 waitresses said that he had lied about their final destination and blackmailed them into following him to the South.

Tomas Ojea Quintana, the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on human rights in the North, told reporters he had interviewed "some" of the 12 waitresses after arriving in last week.

They told him that "they were taken to the South without knowing they were coming here", he said.

He urged the to carry out a "thorough and independent investigation" to establish the truth of the incident as soon as possible and to "hold to account those who are responsible".

Heo Gang-il, the of the North Korean restaurant in where the waitresses worked, said he had been recruited by Seoul's (NIS) in in 2014.

Fearing exposure in 2016, he asked his NIS handler to arrange his defection. At the last minute the minder told him to bring his staff too.

Ojea Quintana did not say whether the women he spoke to had expressed a desire to return to the North, but said their wishes should be respected, whatever they were.

"My stance as UN Human Rights rapporteur is to respect decisions of the victims," he said.

"When I say victims, I'm implying they were subject to some kind of deceit with regard to where they were going," he added.

The has previously said it is looking into the allegations.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, July 10 2018. 11:20 IST