N. Korean family appeals for South to return 'kidnapped' daughter

A screengrab of a video showing the parents of waitress So Gyong A. Pyongyang claims Ms So and 11 other waitresses were tricked into defecting when they went to work at a restaurant in China.
A screengrab of a video showing the parents of waitress So Gyong A. Pyongyang claims Ms So and 11 other waitresses were tricked into defecting when they went to work at a restaurant in China.PHOTO: URIMINZOKKIRI TV

SEOUL • North Korea has released a video appeal by the parents of one of 12 waitresses who Pyongyang insists were kidnapped by South Korean agents from the restaurant in China where they were working.

In the footage, uploaded late on Wednesday to the North's propaganda website Uriminzokkiri, the parents wept and demanded that the South return their daughter, Ms So Gyong A.

Ms So and 11 other waitresses from the same restaurant arrived in South Korea earlier this month, along with their manager.

North Korea claims the manager tricked them into defecting and that they were effectively abducted, with the collusion of the South's spy agency. Seoul insists they all defected voluntarily.

In the video, Ms So's father So Dae Song lashed out at South Korean President Park Geun Hye "and her clique who lured and kidnapped" his daughter. "Gyong A, resist strongly until you return to the bosom of our Marshal," he cried, referring to leader Kim Jong Un.

The mother also wept and denounced Ms Park as a "devil".

Titled "Interview with families of kidnapped girls", the video had a serial number one - an indication that the North may upload similar videos with other parents.

Last week, the North proposed sending all the parents to Seoul to meet their daughters and expose the "fiction" that they had escaped to South Korea voluntarily. South Korea rejected the suggestion.

Nearly 30,000 North Koreans have fled poverty and repression at home to settle in the South. But group defections are rare, especially by staff who work in the North Korea-themed restaurants overseas.

They are picked from families that are "loyal" to the regime, and go through extensive ideological training before being sent abroad.

Anyone caught fleeing the country can be subject to harsh punishment, as can the families of those who successfully defect.

Relatives are often featured in state propaganda, either making tearful pleas for defectors to return home or berating them for betraying the motherland.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2016, with the headline 'N. Korean family appeals for South to return 'kidnapped' daughter'. Print Edition | Subscribe