South Korea on Friday rejected North Korea's claim that 12 North Korean women, who defected to the South en masse last year, were forced to be married in the South to give a false impression of better settlement.
North Korea on Thursday said that South Korea staged a "sordid and mean operation" to avoid the repatriation of the women who used to work at a North Korea-run restaurant in China. It claimed that they were lured and abducted by South Korea.
Seoul's unification ministry dismissed the North's claim as groundless.
"The women are focusing on their studies and have stably settled down here. North Korea's claim of forced marriages is groundless," Baik Tae-hyun, ministry spokesman, told a press briefing.
In exchange for separated family reunions, North Korea is demanding that Seoul return the 12 women and Kim Ryon-hui, a North Korean defector who publicly expressed a wish to go back to North Korea.
"They defected to South Korea on their own free will. So there is no ground for the government to repatriate them," the spokesman said.
Last month, Seoul offered Red Cross talks to discuss reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, but the North has kept mum toward the proposal.
"We are urging North Korea to swiftly accept our dialogue offer as the issue of family reunions warrants urgency," he added. (Yonhap)