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North Korea says it will send restaurant defectors' families to Seoul

North Korea has notified Seoul of its plans to send the families of restaurant workers who defected earlier in the month to South Korea, the country's state-run news agency said Friday.

A group of 13 North Korean people defected from the same Pyongyang-run restaurant in China and came to South Korea in early April in what has become a steady stream of people leaving the isolated country.

North Korea has consistently claimed South Korea abducted the workers and demanded that they be returned to their loved ones at once. Pyongyang also threatened to take strong action against the South if its demands are not met.

"The families of the abductees are eagerly asking for face-to-face contact with their daughters as they were forced to part from their beloved daughters," said the notification sent to South Korea by Ri Chung-bok, chairman of North Korea's Red Cross.

The notification was carried by the North's Korean Central News Agency.

"At their earnest requests, our side again seriously notifies your side of our decision to send them to Seoul via Panmunjom (a truce village)," it showed. South Korea should not conceal the unethical crime under the pretext of "international practice," but should take "immediate technical measures" for the families to reunite with the defectors, the letter said.

In search of freedom and prosperity, more than 1,000 North Koreans settle down to a new life in South Korea every year after fleeting their dictatorial nation.

In South Korea, the North Korean defectors are given citizenship and financial subsidies under the government policy to help them better assimilate into the country.

North Korea steadfastly portrays the flights as abduction by South Korea in a long-running inter-Korean ideological rivalry that has continued since the 1950-53 Korean War divided the Korean Peninsula into the capitalist South and the communist North. (Yonhap)