North Korea’s media on Friday called on South Korea to swiftly repatriate a group of restaurant workers and warned that a delay in the process could negatively impact inter-Korean ties, along with the upcoming reunion of families separated by the Korea War.
North Korea has been ramping up its demand that Seoul return 12 North Korean women who came to South Korea in April 2016 after the restaurant manager who came with the women told a local broadcaster in May that the South’s intelligence agency had orchestrated the defection.
|North Korean restaurant workers (Yonhap)|
“If our female citizens’ repatriation is not resolved as quickly as possible, it could be an obstacle not just to the planned reunions of separated families between the two Koreas but also to the overall inter-Korean relations,” said Uriminzokkiri, the North’s external propaganda website.
The website also criticized South Korean officials, including Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, for covering up the previous Park Geun-hye administration’s wrongdoings.
The South Korean government’s decision to send back the women would be a “touchstone,” that will prove the South’s commitment to improving inter-Korean relations, it added.
“We will closely watch what action the South Korean government will take,” it said.
Meari, another North Korean propaganda website, echoed Uriminzokkiri, stressing that the delay in the repatriation could create obstacles for relations between the two Koreas.
Asked about the reports, Ministry of Unification’s deputy spokesperson Lee Eugene said during a regular press briefing that “there is nothing to talk about,” but reiterated that both Koreas agreed to revive the reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War in the Panmunjom Declaration reached between their leaders on April 27.
While the North has been demanding an immediate repatriation of the restaurant workers in recent years, the South Korean government has claimed that the North Korean women defected to the South of their own will. Seoul vowed to look into the case, but it has yet to give a clear explanation.
The reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War is scheduled to be held at the Mount Kumgang resort on the North’s east coast next month, an event in line with the agreement their leaders reached in a historic summit in April.
By Jung Min-kyung (firstname.lastname@example.org)